LGBT Human Rights Project in Myanmar
(2014 – 2015)

Document Our History Now received a project subsidy from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Bangkok to carry out a LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) human-rights project in Myanmar. The main goal of the project is to give the general public, press and political parties in Myanmar more insight into the social and legal situation of LGBT there and in that way to generate more support for them. More specifically, the project aims to strengthen the movement to abolish Section 377 from the country’s Penal Code.

This project starts in July 2014 and end with Myanmar’s next general elections, in November 2015. It aims to make the current social and legal situation of LGBT in Myanmar more visible. Two communication products will be made: a documentary film and a manifesto (i.e. a compact document outlining the LGBT-advocacy agenda for the coming years). The documentary and manifesto will give a voice and a face to the current position of LGBT in Myanmar and what they are striving for the coming years.

The documentary will focus on the Section 377 of Myanmar’s Penal Code, which mandates punishments for anyone who “voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal,” including fines and imprisonment for up to ten years. This section stems from 1860, during British colonial times, yet it is still in place in Myanmar, India and Malaysia. The existence of this section, but especially also its application, often surprises gender and sexual minorities and makes it difficult for LGBT organisations to become officially established. The documentary will show how Section 377 affects the lives of LGBT individuals but also of LGBT organisations. The Yangon Film School will produce the documentary.

An advocacy agenda will be formulated by the LGBT organisations/network in Myanmar and will be printed as a manifesto: a compact document with concrete goals to strive for in the coming years.

This project will take place while the country is preparing for its general elections in November 2015. With both the documentary and manifesto we hope reach the country’s press and political parties and to inform them about the current social and legal position of LGBT. We will also be looking for mass media attention. The TV channel Democratic Voice of Burma has showed an interest in broadcasting the documentary. In connection with the 2015 general elections, (some) political parties will be speaking about all inclusiveness, human rights and diversity. There is a chance now to vocalise and visualise the position of LGBTs and to bring their needs to the attention of the general public, the press and the national political parties. LGBT rights are human rights. This project aims to support the freedom of expression and speech in Myanmar by giving LGBT there both a face and a voice. Political parties can show their solidarity with the LGBT movement by endorsing the manifesto and so putting words about all inclusiveness into action.

The project has been formulated in close cooperation with Colors Rainbow (Myanmar’s LGBT advocacy organisation) and the Yangon Film School. They will be carrying out the project together with Document Our History Now. A year of research and network building by Document Our History Now preceded the formulation of the project plan.

Document Our History Now is very happy with the Dutch embassy’s confidence in the organisation and with the opportunity to contribute towards improving the visibility and position of LGBT in Myanmar.