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Suu Kyi speaks out on interfaith marriage issue

Aung San Suu Kyi at today’s World Economic Forum BBC debate in Naypyidaw (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

Written by AFP
June 21, 2013
Myanmar opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi has criticised a proposal by nationalist monks to
restrict marriages between Buddhist women and men of other faiths, describing
it as a violation of human rights, a report said Friday.
“This is
one-sided. Why only women? You cannot treat the women unfairly,” Radio
Free Asia quoted the Nobel Peace Laureate as saying in an interview.
“I also
understand that this is not in accordance with the laws of the country and
especially that it is not part of Buddhism,” the veteran activist said.
“It is a
violation of women’s rights and human rights.”
Under the
proposal—spearheaded by the controversial Mandalay cleric Wirathu—non-Buddhist
men wishing to marry a Buddhist woman would have to convert and gain permission
from her parents to wed or risk 10 years in jail.
The idea was raised
at a recent meeting of more than 200 monks called to discuss a surge in
Buddhist-Muslim violence in the former junta-ruled country.
Wirathu said the
law was needed “because Buddhist girls have lost freedom of religion when
they married Muslim men”.
Senior clerics have
distanced themselves from the proposal while women’s rights groups have voiced
bloodshed—mostly targeting Muslims—has laid bare deep divides that were largely
suppressed under decades of military rule which ended two years ago in the
Buddhist-majority country.
Radical monks—once
at the forefront of the country’s pro-democracy movement—have led a campaign to
shun shops owned by Muslims and only to visit stores run by Buddhists. Some
were also involved in the religious unrest.
Suu Kyi has been
accused by some international human rights activists of failing to clearly
condemn the anti-Muslim violence.
Dozens of people
were killed in clashes in central Myanmar in March while about 200 people died
last year in sectarian unrest in the western state of Rakhine.
Last month Suu Kyi
criticised a controversial ban imposed on Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine having
more than two children.