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Shin Thant wants LGBT persons to be accepted in Myanmar.

Hard for LGBT people to be accepted in Myanmar

Transgender persons in Myanmar / Burma face difficulties in all areas of society. Bullying in school, discrimination in the labour market and harassment are common. In popular culture, jokes are prevalent.

"People have so many prejudices about us. We want people to understand that gender identity doesn’t have anything to do with personality”, says Shin Thant at Diakonia's partner organization Color Rainbow.

To change gender is illegal

Shin Thant identifies herself as a woman. But in Myanmar, LGBT people are not accepted neither religiously or culturally. It is illegal to change the gender you are assigned at birth. People who have intercourse and are by law considered to be of the same sex can be charged. It’s the penal code 377, a colonization remnant, that criminalizes "unnatural" sex and greatly influences the treatment of LGBT people. Color Rainbow works hard for a change.

- As a transperson, I risk between 10 and 20 years in prison if I have sex with a man. One major problem is that the police take advantage of the situation and require money from transgender persons, says Shin Thant.

Wants to increase knowledge

Color Rainbow is aiming for increased knowledge about LBGT issues in the society. The organization is conducting research into the impact for discriminatory law on LGBT people in Myanmar. Based on the findings they plan to propose the introduction of a new anti-discrimination law, including a provision against discrimination on the grounds of gender expression or sexual orientation.

"The problems for transgender people often start already at school. Many of us share experiences of bullying while teachers look aside. In working life, we are only accepted in the fashion industry or as makeup artists, while it is out of the question to apply for jobs such as accountant. There are prejudices that transgender persons are lazier than others”, says Shin Thant.

Hard work to change people's mindset

Color Rainbow also works to strengthen transgender persons by enlightening them about their rights and offering legal advice to those exposed to violence at the police. The goal is to turn the self-image from victims to change agents. The organization also tries to influence the media to write more nuanced about LBGT issues and religious leaders to be more balanced in their statements.

"It's hard work which basically involves changing people’s general view. We would like to collaborate with others, but some women's organizations do not accept us. But we are convinced that we have a lot to gain from supporting each other, "says Shin Thant.