Burma’s parliament has passed legislation giving the government far-reaching powers in determining the size and spacing of families in that country.
The new law, passed this month, is the first of four bills dealing with population control, religious conversion, interfaith marriage and polygamy. The population control law empowers the government to limit reproductive rates in certain parts of the country if it determines that regional development is being negatively affected by birth rates or population size. Supporters say that the provisions in the new law will reduce the risk of adverse maternal and child health outcomes.
Depending on how it is enforced, however, there are fears that it could be used to target religious and ethnic minorities in the Buddhist-majority country, where peoples such as the Rohingya, Kachin and Karen have long faced discrimination.
The United States is deeply concerned about legislative passage of the Health Care for Population Control Bill. It contains provisions that could undermine reproductive rights, women’s rights and religious freedom. We are particularly concerned that the law could also provide a legal basis for discrimination through coercive, uneven application of birth control policies and differing standards of care for different communities across the country.
We strongly urge the government to ensure the protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights for all individuals in Burma.