LGBT rights in Myanmar

LGBT rights in Myanmar Myanmar

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Illegal
Ten years to life in prison
Gender identity/expression
Military service No
Discrimination protections None
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in Myanmar (also known as Burma) face legal challenges and discrimination not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same sex sexual activity is illegal in Burma and punishable by fines and imprisonment for ten years to life. The past authoritarian nature of the government made it difficult to obtain accurate information about the legal or social status of LGBT Burmese citizens. However, along with the ongoing political reforms, improvements in media and civil freedoms have allowed LGBT people to gain more and more recognition in the country.

Criminal Code

Section 377 of the penal code prohibits same sex sexual activity and sodomy. Along with fines, the punishment is ten years to life, though no known enforcement has been done in recent years. In 2001, the exile group called the All Burma Students' Democratic Front voted to have the law repealed. This was seen as a victory by the Committee for Lesbigay Rights in Burma, although such a change is not likely to occur given the current political climate.[1]

The following sections of the penal code can also be used against LGBT people in Burma:[2]

Marriage and Family

Burma does not recognise a same-sex marriage or civil union performed in another nation, nor does it permit such legal recognition internally.

Society & Culture

During the military regime, no organised LGBT political or social life was able to exist. Burma's social mores about human sexuality have been described as being "extremely conservative.".[4]

Aung Myo Min is an openly gay man and has been involved in the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF). In 2005 he talked about his coming out process and the homophobia that exists, even with the pro-democracy opposition.[5] Today he is involved with exile Burma human rights organisations, including the Campaign for Lesbigay Rights in Burma.

In 2003, FocusAsia (Star TV) aired a story about the Nat Kadaws. The "Utopia Guide to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar & Vietnam" references "transgender shaman channeling spirits at Myanmar sacred festivals."[6] Yet, within Burma itself, no formal gay bars or LGBT-rights organisations exist. There are only some unconfirmed reports that certain nightclubs in the cities that are a reputation for both heterosexual and LGBT clientele.[7]

Current Status

Despite the illegal nature of it, homosexuality and gender expression has become more visible in Burma, especially after the political reforms.[8] Gay and lesbian couples freely cohabit in major cities like Yangon and Mandalay, though they are not legally allowed to marry. The increased media freedom has also allowed journalists to report on the gay and lesbian community.[9] Same-sex couples have also been able to celebrate ceremonial marriages in major cities without any legal persecution.[10]

Burma also celebrated its first gay pride in several cities around the country in 2012, to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.[11] In 2016, The Gemini was released and became the first LGBT film in cinema of Myanmar. The film openly railed against the Burmese homosexuality laws.[12][13]

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal (Penalty: Up to life imprisonment)
Equal age of consent
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech)
Same-sex marriages
Recognition of same-sex couples
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples
Joint adoption by same-sex couples
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military
Right to change legal gender
Access to IVF for lesbians
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples
MSMs allowed to donate blood

See also


  1. "Sodomylaws.Org". Sodomylaws.Org. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  2. "Burma Lawyers' Council [Legal Resource] The Myanmar Penal Code". Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  3. "BLC Publications". 9 March 1950. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  4. "CURRENTS: HIV/AIDS in Myanmar | global nomads group". 2 July 2005. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  5. "A Revealing Glimpse at Gay Life in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam". Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  6. "Gay Myanmar and Burmese Gay and Lesbian Resources by Utopia Asia". Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  7. Golluoglu, Esmer (13 May 2012). "Gay people in Burma start to challenge culture of repression". London: Guardian.
  8. "Woman raised as a man in Birma". Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  9. "". Wai Phyo Myint. Retrieved 20 April 2013. External link in |title= (help)
  10. "A pride with no parade for Burma's first gay festival". BBC. 17 May 2012.
  11. Times, Los Angeles. "Convoluted plot and tech issues undo gay romantic thriller 'The Gemini'".
  12. "Burmese Director Explores Same-Sex Relationships in New Film". 28 January 2016.
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