Women, Girls and LGBT Fight for Rights in Myanmar: “We Have to Win This Time”

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04/14/2021

In early February, women, girls and members of the LGBT community hit the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and other cities throughout Myanmar to protest the country’s military takeover. Protesters—many of them young women—have continued to marched, beat pans and hang their undergarments (known as htamein) in creative and colorful protest, not just against the dictatorship, but against the country’s persistent gender inequality. Myanmar has endured more than five decades of military dictatorship, beginning in 1948 when the country gained independence from British rule. The nation temporarily transitioned to civilian leadership in 2011. Under the civilian rule, repression loosened. More women were elected to the parliament in the last elections than in the prior election. The military junta has erased the advances women have made and taken the country back to its hyper patriarchic past, which includes decades of repression and violence against Myanmar’s ethnic communities. Extreme in their chauvinistic ideology, police and soldiers believe that coming into contact with women’s clothing will weaken them. Demonstrators, 60 percent or more of them women, use this misogynistic narrative to their advantage by carrying htamein during protests and by hanging them across streets to cordon off areas from men too offended to walk beneath them.

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