Myanmar’s Two-Child Limit: Open Attack On Human Dignity
Religion & Liberty Online

Myanmar’s Two-Child Limit: Open Attack On Human Dignity

The nation of Myanmar (also known by the historic name Burma) has apparently instituted a two-child limit for Muslim families.

The policy applies to two Rakhine townships that border Bangladesh and have the highest Muslim populations in the state. The townships, Buthidaung and Maungdaw, are about 95 percent Muslim. Nationwide, Muslims account for only about 4 percent of Myanmar’s roughly 60 million people.

The order makes Myanmar perhaps the only country in the world to level such a restriction against a particular religious group, and is likely to bring further criticism that Muslims are being discriminated against in the Buddhist-majority country. The central government has not made any statement about the two-child policy since Rakhine state authorities quietly enacted the measure a week ago.

According to the 2013 U.S. Commission on International Freedom’s report, while Myanmar/Burma’s constitution expresses freedom of religious expression, a 1982 law forbids Rohingya Muslims citizenship. The Rohingya Muslims are an ethnic minority, and this law bars access to government, schools and legal recognition of marriages to this minority. In addition, the government routinely denies building permits to both Muslim and Christian groups in the Buddhist-dominated state.

It is almost impossible for Muslims to obtain building permits for either mosques or schools and unlicensed venues are regularly closed or destroyed. The government has, in recent years, ordered the destructions of mosques, religious centers, and schools, including the Sufi Shahul Hamid Nagori Flag Post and Mosque in Insein during February 2012.

An estimated 300,000 Muslim Rohingya live in refugee camps in Bangladesh, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries. They often live in squalid conditions and face discrimination, trafficking, and other hardships. They also have been forcibly repatriated to Burma. Bangladesh has recently announced that it will go ahead with plans to repatriate Rohingya living in refugee camps but will not accept new asylum seekers.

In addition, there are reports of torture to Kachin Christians living in refugee camps in northern Burma.

The government says this new two-child limit is, “the best way to control the population explosion which is a threat to our national identity. If no measure is taken to control the population, there is a danger of losing our own identity.”

Such a policy must be denounced by the world community. It is disingenuous to hide behind the notion of national identity and population problems; to attempt to curtail the growth of one segment of a population by coercion and discriminatory laws will only lead to more sectarian violence. Every family has the right to procreate, educate and seek economic advancements in the society in which they live. Christians and Muslims in Myanmar, like every other religious group, deserve the full protection of the law and of their human rights.

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.