The government of Burma (Myanmar) has moved one step closer to approving a set of four so-called Race and Religion Protection bills as law, after its Lower House approved two bills on 19 March.
According to a report from Barnabas Fund, the four bills will make it harder to practise religion freely, as they will curb conversions to other religions, and marriages between Buddhist women and men of other religions, and also control childbirth rates by region.
Human rights activists are concerned that these bills are primarily targeted at Muslim communities where there have been clashes with Buddhist communities.
However, some of the bills will equally restrict the country’s Christians and Christian-majority ethnicities, such as the Kachin and Chin peoples, who live largely in the north of the country.
In a statement, Barnabas Fund warns that the Religious Conversion Bill stipulates that anyone who wishes to convert to another religion must obtain permission from local authorities. Although it was approved in February in the Upper House, this bill has yet to be discussed in the Lower House.
Furthermore, the Population Control Healthcare Bill enables authorities to limit women to giving birth to one child every three years. The bill will be imposed upon those geographical areas authorities deem necessary, based on available healthcare resources. But the bill also makes it easy for authorities to discriminate against particular religious and ethnic minorities.
Approved by the Upper House in February and by the Lower House in March, the bill must be discussed in the bicameral parliament. If the bills are approved in both houses and pass a joint vote in the bicameral parliament, they will be made law by presidential decree.