The Mon Women’s Organization (MWO), working in cooperation with Action Aid Myanmar, has just finished a series of workshops on legal awareness in three Mon State townships. The workshops were designed to inform residents about legal avenues to address problems, especially related to gender, families and households.
Workshops were held in Chaungzone, Thabyuzayat and Ye townships between July 2 and August 10. Four villages in each township were selected to host the workshops bringing the total number to 12. The last workshop took place on August 10 in Chaungzone’s Mudoon Village, according to Nai Win Kyi, a legal advisor from MWO.
“By holding these legal awareness workshops, we can help open [residents’] eyes about the legal recourse that they have for things like legal marriage, unofficial marriage and divorce. We are also able to change perspectives on issues like domestic violence, whether only men head households, and who has responsibility and does more work in a family,” Nai Win Kyi said.
He added that these workshops can help reduce domestic violence, and at the same time help women achieve equal rights in terms of administrative, judicial, and legislative matters.
One problem that the workshops sought to address was the persistent belief that men deserve to make household decisions because they generally earn more money. Female participants argued that they work just as hard as men, but traditionally work in the household where their effort is not compensated.
“After getting up, we pay homage to Buddha. Then, we go shopping and do cooking. We have to take the kids to schools and then bring them back home. We truly spend the whole day working. Although we do not receive income like we would with a job, [our role] requires us to do more than men,” said one participant during a discussion about the daily work of men and women.
The workshop lasted for one day in each village and touched on four controversial family-related laws known as the “Race and Religion Protection Bill.” Those laws were pushed by Buddhist nationalists and include some family planning and interfaith marriage laws that are widely considered draconian. Those four laws are the Monogamy Law, the Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Law, the Religious Conversion Law, and Population Control Health Care Law.