Human rights groups have attacked a controversial new law in Myanmar that will force some women to have children at least three year apart.
Khin Lay of the Yangon-based Triangle Women Support Group criticised the move on Monday, saying it would exclusively target the country’s minority Muslim population.
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“This law targets one religion, one population, in one area,” said Lay, whose organisation lobbied against the law .
Myanmar’s President Thein Sein signed the population control healthcare bill into law last week, state-controlled media announced on Saturday.
The legislation came under pressure from the Buddhist ultra-nationalist group the Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion, known as Ma Ba Tha.
The group has stoked anti-Muslim sentiment by saying Muslim communities have high birth rates and will eventually overrun the predominately Buddhist country even though they currently represent less than 10 percent of the population.
The government denies discriminating against Muslims and says the new birth law is aimed at improving maternal health and child welfare.
It was unclear how the new law against giving birth in the three-year period would be enforced.
The US has said the legislation, which falls under “Race and Religion Protection Laws”, has the potential to exacerbate racial and religious divisions in the country.
Washington and the UN have called on Myanmar to address discrimination and violence against ethnic Rohingya Muslims.
They say the government’s policy towards the Rohingya minority is a root cause of mass migration that has led to the humanitarian crisis unfolding on Southeast Asia’s seas.
Other groups have also expressed concerns that the law could further exacerbate tensions in Rakhine State where violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims broke out in 2012.
Most of Myanmar’s 1.1 million Rohingya are stateless and live in apartheid-like conditions.
“In the case of Rakhine specifically, it will only create misunderstanding between the two communities,” said Nwe Zin Win, head of women’s rights group Pyi Gyi Khin.