Celebration and Resistance: Canada Supports LGBT Rights in Burma

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The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia banner on Display in Yangon
Legal, political and media experts at the roundtable discussion
Sharing knowledge in Yangon People’s Park
A peacock banner celebrating the LGBT community

Speeches advocating for human rights, information booths dispelling myths about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans life, and a drag version of a Burmese folk dance – these things would have been unimaginable in Burma in the days of military rule. But that is precisely what happened in Yangon People’s Park, much to the interest of an audience of curious Yangonites. 
The LGBT community in Burma has been marginalized since the colonial era. However, Burma’s recent political opening offers a fresh opportunity to work towards greater equality for the community.

With this in mind, Canada sponsored several public events to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) in Burma.

Public celebrations related to LGBT rights were held in 10 cities in Burma. Canada supported events in partnership with two local LGBT groups: Equality Myanmar and Colours Rainbow.

The event in People’s Park featured a public stage to showcase dancing, speeches, and displays promoting the Colours magazine. The event also provided basic information on gay life, HIV, same-sex marriage and other related issues.

In Yangon, the IDAHOT committee also hosted a conference on Section 377, the British colonial-era law criminalizing same sex relationships, and a roundtable discussion with legal, political and media experts presenting different perspectives on LGBT rights.

Canadian Ambassador Mark McDowell made the opening remarks at this event, speaking of Canada’s engagement on LGBT issues in Burma and around the world.

"The rapid political reforms of the last two years have unleashed the tremendous energy that was pent up in Burmese society. All sorts of groups in civil society are organizing to protect their rights and advocate in the increasingly free media." – Mark McDowell

While LGBT citizens in Burma still face many challenges both legal and cultural, Canada will support the community in its pursuit of equality.