Rangoon and Mandalay, the two largest cities in Burma, will host public LGBT rights events for the first time on Thursday.
‘This year there have been some changes in Burma,’ one of the organisers of the events, Aung Myo Min from Human Rights Education Institute Burma (HREIB), told Gay Star News. ‘Whether the change is cosmetic or true, it’s better to test the water.’
Since 2010 in Burma there have been some momentous shifts away from years of political repression. Pro-gay rights events are the latest, even if they will be held indoors.
‘We’re not going to out on the street for a parade,’ says Aung Myo Min. ‘It will be an indoor event because of the situation in Burma. But we hope that we will have a gay parade in the future.’
HREIB have held events for IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia) on 17 May for the last three years for Burmese nationals in Thailand. This year they decided to hold them in Burma.
Aung Myo Min is not worried about the authorities because, he says ‘this is just a celebration of a historic event, when homosexuality was removed from the list of mental diseases. It’s not about human rights. It’s just about the dignity of the LGBT people. Our message is just to end homophobia – this is not a political issue.’
The organisers have permission from the local authorities for the event in Mandalay and they are inviting UN officials, NGOs, artists and writers. Writer Atta Kyaw will talk about LGBT rights and LGBT people in the entertainment industry will talk about their experiences of violence and harassment.
Aung Myo Min says violence against LGBT people is not as bad in Burma as it is in other places such as Africa and in the West but there is ‘silent homophobia’.
‘We published our poster on Facebook,’ said Aung Myo Min. ‘We had hundreds of comments. Some are very supportive but some are very homophobic. We still have a long way to go.’