President’s Office douses notion of Women’s Ministry

Following a question by Chin National Democratic Party MP Zartalam on Monday in the Lower House as to whether plans were afoot to establish a Ministry for Women’s Affairs, President’s Office Minister Soe Maung responded that no such plan has been discussed because “Burmese women already enjoy better rights than women in other Asian countries”.

Soe Maung said a Women’s Ministry was therefore unnecessary, and noted that women in Burma live free from discrimination thanks to the culture and traditions prevalent in Burmese society, and constitutional provisions guaranteeing gender equality.

“Minister Soe Maung cited the fact that two females were ministers in government and were in numerous positions among the civil service,” said Zartalam, who is one of the two female ministers.

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But Tin Tin Nyo, the secretary of the Thailand-based Women’s League of Burma, said it is necessary to open a Ministry for Women’s Affairs but that it would require a constitutional amendment.

“The constitution must be amended first, and specific provisions must be introduced in order for a Minister for Women’s Affairs to function effectively,” she said.

The other female minister, Lower House MP Than Ngwe, from Karenni State’s Kalaw Township, said it would be ideal to have a government body dedicated to women’s affairs, but it is not essential at the moment.

“In my opinion, it is not essential for now, as there are evidently many women within the ranks of almost every government ministries,” she said. “This indicates that empowerment of women has increased, even though we still don’t see many women in leadership and decision-making positions. But I expect that will also improve too.

“In Burma, more women are educated than men, and women are more far-sighted,” she said. “So I assume the role of women will improve over time even without a government body dedicated to women’s affairs.”

Currently, there are women’s ministries in very few countries, among them New Zealand, Canada and Cambodia.

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