The Gender Equality and Women’s Rights Landscape in Myanmar
Women constitute 52% of Myanmar’s population. As elsewhere, Myanmar’s gender equality and women’s rights landscape is mixed. The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, literacy rates for women are high at 87%, and gender parity in primary and secondary school enrollments has been reached. However, the labor force participation rate and the employment-to-population ratio for persons aged 15–64 is 67% and 64.4% (85% for men and 51% for women and 82% for men and 48% for women) respectively. Gender-based sectoral and occupational segmentation and wage gaps exist. Women dominate vulnerable employment and bear the sole responsibility for care work, even when engaged in paid work in the public sphere.
Women currently constitute 10% of all members of both Houses of Parliament, and while this is an improvement from earlier years, they are well below the 30% CEDAW benchmark. Moreover they are concentrated at the mid & lower levels of the executive branch of government. They have borne the impacts of conflict and could be much better represented in numbers and their priorities in Myanmar’s peace process. Even where gains have been made in the sphere of education, concerns about retention, quality and relevance, including from a gender perspective, persist. Although the country lacks national prevalence data, smaller scale research confirms violence in all its forms perpetrated against women and girls, with poor access to justice for them.
Women experience socio-economic & political marginalization, although they have been resilient and contributing survivors. Cultural stereotypes privilege men as breadwinners and leaders and women as homemakers. There is also inadequate legal infrastructure and plural legal systems spawning differing and discriminatory standards for women. Comprehensive, coordinated, quality socio-economic services tailored to the specific needs of women and girls is needed, as is more institutional capacitation on gender for duty bearers and for women to be better empowered to exercise rights and claim entitlements contribute to gender inequalities in Myanmar.
UN Support for Gender Equality in Myanmar
Global research demonstrates that closing the gender gap brings women’s untapped skills and talent pool to the fore, enhances efficiency, has positive intergenerational impacts, creates more inclusive institutions and policy choices that optimize development outcomes and contribute to effectively implementing Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women (NSPAW) (2013-22) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN supports these efforts across its agencies, funds and programmes in Myanmar. Examples of this include:
- Conduct gender situation analysis (GSA) that profiles, analyses & makes recommendations on gender equality & women’s rights in the economy, leadership & decision-making; the peace process, health, education & ending violence against women (EVAW). These areas are aligned with National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women (NSPAW) and will be used to inform policy & program development and implementation. The UN regularly provides support to the CEDAW reporting process.
- Technical guidance & financial assistance to the government to develop the Prevention of Violence against Women Law. The draft law proposed is anchored in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) addresses prevention, protection, prosecution & covers all forms of violence against women and girls. UN advocacy with government and parliamentarians to ensure its CEDAW compliance when adopted, continues.
- Technical assistance to laws being developed, as well as on legislative amendments. These included the Religion, Marriage, Population Control Bills and the Amendments to the Suppression of Prostitution Act 1949. This also entailed strong advocacy if the proposed laws were perceived to impinge on the human rights of men, women & children. This was done through regular consultations with Parliament, the Attorney General’s Office, key government ministries to ensure legislation respects, protects & fulfils human rights and gender obligations.
- Technical assistance to government on the CEDAW Review process.
 The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated that equal access to productive resources between female and male farmers could increase agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5% to 4%.