Myanmar Women’s Day Draws Criticism from Burmese Women
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Myanmar Women’s Day Draws Criticism from Burmese Women

By Aye Lae Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Claims of equality between the sexes by Burmese government-backed women’s groups commemorating the country’s Myanmar Women’s Day o­n Tuesday have drawn criticism from activists in exile.

“This Women’s Day needs to represent all women in Burma,” Nang Yain, secretary of the Thailand-based Women’s League of Burma, told The Irrawaddy o­n Tuesday. “What they are doing is just a show of the wives of members of the State Peace and Development Council.”

Myanmar Women’s Day is held annually o­n July 3 to mark the creation in 1996 of the Myanmar National Committee for Women’s Affairs, a state-sponsored organization largely comprising the wives of Burma’s ruling generals and other top officials.

“[Myanmar Women’s Day] has nothing to do with me. The group (MNCWF) doesn’t stand for us women and doesn’t help solve our problems,” a woman in Bahan Township, who asked not to be named, told The Irrawaddy by phone.

An editorial o­n Tuesday in state-run The New Light of Myanmar described the MNCWF as “a national force that is serving the interest of the state and the people.”

The same editorial added the following claim: “According to culture, traditions and laws, Myanmar women have enjoyed rights o­n equal terms with men since time immemorial.”

Many women in and outside Burma don’t accept the July 3 celebration of Burmese women as anything more than a state-sponsored event honoring an organization that does nothing for the majority of Burma’s women.

“We hold the day for Burmese women as the birthday of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” Su Su Nway, a prominent woman activist based in Rangoon, told The Irrawaddy.

Su Su Nway, who has been arrested several times, added that the government-backed women’s group pays no attention to women in Burma’s prisons or women in the sex trade. 

There are currently 53 female political prisoners in prisons across Burma, some of whom are serving life sentences, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Despite government claims that Burmese women enjoy equal rights with men, o­ne female author says the treatment of female authors contradicts such claims.

Kyi Oo, a well-known writer, said that much of the writing about “real life” conditions faced by Burmese women is not allowed to be published.

Many of her own articles about powerful and successful Burmese women throughout history have not made it past Burma’s censors at the Press Scrutiny and Registration Board.

“This practice does absolutely nothing good for the women of Burma,” the writer in her 80s said.

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