Burma’s Monogamy Act was passed in the lower house of parliament on Wednesday. The bill is the third instalment of the controversial ‘National Race and Religion Protection’ package lobbied by a nationalist coalition led by Buddhist monks known as the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, commonly known by its Burmese acronym Ma-Ba-Tha.
Of 300 MPs in the chamber, 276 voted for the motion, while 29 were against.
Khin San Hlaing, a National League for Democracy (NLD) member, said she was the only MP in the lower house who objected the bill during the parliamentary debate.
“From what we understand, the proposed legislation is not adequate to become law. It doesn’t include any provision that can protect either men or women,” she told DVB after the parliament session.
“We are not fighting [the concept of] monogamy or trying to promote bigamy, but we would like to have a law that can effectively protect the rights of both women and men.
“There was also no specific provision on the rights of the children from either marriage.”
According to the law, a man or woman who remarries before an existing union is dissolved can be punishable with up to 10 years in prison, as well as a fine.
Khin San Hlaing said she objected to a clause in the bill which required proof of divorce from couples wishing to remarry, saying that this may led men to harass or abuse their first wives into granting a divorce.
The NLD member also voiced concern over a clause which may cause a person seeking divorce to lose rights to a jointly owned property.
The legislation will now be tabled for debate in the upper house. If the two chambers cannot reach agreement on the bill, it will be subject to a final debate in the bicameral Union Parliament.
Earlier this year, parliament passed the Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Bill and the Population Control Healthcare Bill, as part of the Race and Religion Protection package.
The Marriage Bill stipulates that Buddhist women married to men of other religions must be free to retain her faith, and enforces prison sentences or fines against husbands found to have forcibly converted her to his religion or stopped her practicing Buddhism.
The package has been opposed by numerous local and international groups for allegedly targeting Burma’s ethnic Rohingya minority and restricting women’s rights.