logo
  

Myanmar Urged To Scrap Draft Bill Restricting Religious Conversion

A group of independent United Nations human rights experts on Friday called on the Government of Myanmar to do away with a draft bill imposing restrictions on religious conversion, stressing the right of every individual to freely choose or to change their faith.

The experts - on freedom of religion, minority issues and human rights in Myanmar - warned that the draft bill, made public on May 27 inviting comments from monks and the public, sets out a cumbersome application and approval process for conversion while purporting to make it easier for individuals to freely convert.

It also provides for disproportionate criminal sanctions on offenders, according to a news release issued by the three experts. In addition, some provisions are "vague and subject to interpretation that may lead to discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities or the poor."

The experts noted that seeking comments from the public on draft legislation is commendable in promoting political participation of the people. "But in this instance," they added, "this process appears partial to the interest of one particular group and simply propagates the spread of incitement of racial and religious hatred, which the Government must do more to address."

The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, noted that state interferences into the right to change one's religion or belief are "illegitimate and incompatible with international human rights standards."

Rita Izsák, the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, highlighted the potential for the bill to impact negatively on religious freedoms and the rights of religious and ethnic minorities.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, warned that the draft bill - one of four composing a legislative package on the protection of race and religion - "signals the risk of Myanmar going off-track on its path to being a responsible member of the international community that respects and protects human rights."

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

For comments and feedback contact: editorial@rttnews.com

Market Analysis

Follow RTT