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Members of the Sunflower group

How to change a law that hurts us?

'I was threatened for being transgender. To be able to walk away, I had to give what they asked for. I was afraid. I had to give.' This quote illustrates the strong impact of discriminatory laws on people’s lives.

In current Myanmar law, same-sex relations are illegal. Section 377 of the Penal Code prohibits ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal’. Although the law is rarely enforced, it has been reported that it is used to intimidate gay people. It also influences perceptions and norms in society, which subsequently has a negative impact on the lives of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBT+).

Advocate for amendment.
To stop this discrimination and exclusion by law, Christian Aid’s partner Gender Equality Network (GEN) organised a workshop on Penal Code 377. The goal of the event was to explore how LGBT are affected by this law and the changes they want to see. Many stories were shared and all participants agreed that the law is a threat to their daily life. It makes them feel unsafe.

With the technical support from lawyers, around 30 people representing LGBT+ decided to advocate for an amendment. The aim of the amendment is to include the word ‘non-consensual sexual acts’ to the existing text. This way it will not only prevent misuse of the law, but it will also protect people from sexual abuse. The workshop is part of a long advocacy process, in which the next step will be the writing of a policy brief based on the discussions of the workshop.  

Lived experiences of poor transwomen in Myanmar.
Changing discriminative laws is a major step in overcoming the exclusion and discrimination of people with gender identities or sexual orientation that is perceived to be different from the social norm. However, these social norms are deeply rooted and persistent. An open conversation with a group of transgender women in Mandalay shows the struggle they face in every corner of society, from their family to school and work and social functions.

'Our mother didn’t want us to be like this, she worried, she used to beat us'

The story not only shows the different barriers they face, but also how these are interconnected, making a way out of this exclusion even more difficult. Find the full story here.

Christian Aid’s support in Myanmar
Christian Aid works with the most marginalised in society. We support them in strengthening their voice and agency to address the faces and the causes of their exclusion. We partner with two major networks promoting equal rights and empowerment for people who are excluded based on gender identity or sexual orientation. We support people to unite their voices and speak out to challenge unequal power relations, a structural cause of poverty. Currently we support Gender Equality Network (GEN) – a network of over 150 organisations – in their advocacy for the amendment of Penal Code section 377. Our Mandalay-based partner Civil Authorize Negotiate Organisation (CAN) focuses on advocacy for an Anti-Discrimination Law and public awareness raising on LGBT+ issues.