Date of Accession/ Ratification: 22 July 1997 (ratified)
Reservations: Article 29, paragraph 1
Optional Protocol: Signed 28 Feb 2000; not yet ratified
Reporting Status: - Next report (4th and 5th) due in August 2014
Shadow reports
Concluding Observations Concluding Observations from 42nd session
Follow-up reports CEDAW/C/MMR/CO/3/Add.1
Coordinating Agency for CEDAW implementation:

Myanmar is a country in Southeast Asia, formerly known as Burma. Previously an independent kingdom, Burma was annexed by the British Empire into the colony of India in 1886. The occupation brought social, economic, cultural and administrative changes to the once feudal society. The Japanese Empire invaded and occupied the country during World War II but it was returned to British control until independence in 1948.

The name of the country was changed from Burma to Myanmar in 1989 by the ruling military government, officially recognized by the United Nations. In 2011, following a general election in 2010, a quasi civilian government was established.

                         Ratified international human rights treaties
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, in 1991
  • The Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination against Women in 1997
  • The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in 2011
  • The Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in 2011

Myanmar is ranked 149   in Human Development Index among the 186 countries in 2013, and falls in the category of the low human development average.[1] Myanmar ranks 96 out of 146 countries in the 2011 Gender Inequality Index (GII), ahead of Cambodia and Lao PDR, ranked 99 and 107, respectively. It has achieved gender parity in education with regard to enrollment ratios of girls and boys in primary and secondary education. However, disaggregated analysis points to gender disparities in some of the poorest rural areas. While women in Myanmar enjoy equal rights in inheritance laws and equal marital property rights in the case of divorce. However, patriarchal cultural values related to women’s roles and responsibilities still shape familial relationships, contribute to the gendered division of labour and limit women’s participation in decision making at all levels.

Multidimensional Poverty Index Rank – MPI – (of 104 countries) – ‘head count’ (%)
From 2010 survey: 33.3
Gender Inequality Index Rank – GII – (of 148 countries)
In 2012: 80
Social Institutions and Gender Index –  SIGI
In 2012: 44 of 86 countries

Key issues of concern include: high maternal mortality ratio and insufficient access to reproductive and basic health services; low levels of women’s participation in public decision making and in the labour market, increasing HIV among women and lack of reliable and sex-disaggregated data across all sectors which hampers evidence-based policy and programme interventions. Gender disparities are more marked in rural areas and amongst some ethnic groups.

Table: Myanmar’s GII for 2011 relative to selected countries and groups

Source: Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. Human Development Report 2011.  

Health: Myanmar has a high maternal mortality rate with 240 deaths per 100,000 live births and is unlikely to meet the MDG target. Postpartum hemorrhage, eclampsia and complications from unsafe abortions are the leading causes of maternal deaths, according to the government's 2006-2011 National Health Plan. Abortion is illegal in Myanmar and nearly 10 percent of all maternal deaths are abortion-related, which is often undertaken by non-trained attendants. In addition there is a roughly 20% un-met need for contraception amongst married women, which may also contribute to the abortion practices. Myanmar also has a high adolescent fertility rate at 16.9%, mainly as a result of lack of sex education.

HIV/AIDS: Next to Thailand, HIV/AIDS prevalence is highest in Myanmar. Increasing numbers of women are contracting HIV. Women’s vulnerability to HIV is increased by high-risk behaviour of their spouses or partners as well as their inability to negotiate safe sexual practices. Nearly 3 percent of new HIV infections may be attributed to mother-to-child transmission. Factors which may limit women’s access to HIV services are related to their lower status in the household, lower literacy rate, less access to health information, and exclusion from decision making in household health action and expenditure, as well as stigma.

Economic empowerment: Female participation in the labour market is significantly below that of men, at 63.1% compared to 85.1% for men. The share of women in paid employment in non- agriculture sector has gradually increased from 41.3% in 2005 to 44.7% in 2010 (with variations across states/regions). The data reflects women’s limited access to labour markets in industry and services. A wide gap remains between men and women in higher ranks of paid employment, with women concentrated in lower ranks and lower-skilled jobs.

Despite legal provisions for equal pay for men and women, disparities in wages exist. For similar types of jobs, men earned an estimated income of US$1,043 in 2007, while women earned only US$640.48. Overall, women provide unpaid, largely “invisible” and unrecognized care work at home, in addition to their paid work in public sphere. Many women from Myanmar migrate to neighbouring countries in search of better- paid jobs. Most Myanmar female migrant workers end up as low-skilled industrial, agricultural or domestic workers in neighbouring countries, often in exploitative workplaces (including those where they are at risk of sexual exploitation).

Political participation and participation in decision making: In Myanmar, only 4.4% of seats in the national parliament are held by women. Currently the proportions of women are 5.7% in the People’s Assembly, 1.8% in the National Assembly and 2.7% as regional and state representative. There are only 53 women among 1153 elected representatives (29 at national level and 24 at regional/state level). These figures are very low compared to Cambodia (21.1% in the Lower House), Lao PDR (25.2%) and Vietnam (25.8%). The figures were even lower before the 1 April 2012 by-elections when the number of MPs in the national parliament increased by almost 50% from 20 to 39.

There is no parliamentary quota for women, although women women’s groups are starting to talk about negotiating a quota for the 2015 elections. The first women minister in decades was appointed on 8 September 2012 as Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. Five women hold Deputy Ministerial positions. Women comprise about half of all staff in state administrative organizations and Ministries, however, they are concentrated in lower-level positions. In 2008-2009, they occupied only 31.7 percent of senior-level posts (Deputy Director and above).

Gender based violence: The CEDAW Committee expressed concern over widespread domestic violence and sexual violence, including rape, which appears to be accompanied by a culture of silence and impunity. Myanmar does not have specific legislation against gender based violence, although there are Penal code provisions against sexual assault and rape. Public awareness of the issue is low and data is largely non-existence. A combination of traditional cultural beliefs, low social value of women, women’s lack of knowledge of their rights, insufficient support services (legal, health, counselling, shelter, etc.) collude to ensure that cases are under-reported and settled out of court. Trafficking is another serious challenge, with Myanmar women, children, and men trafficked to Thailand, China, Malaysia, South Korea, and Macau for sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and forced labour. The Myanmar government made trafficking a national cause since 1997 and enacted the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law in 2005.

Legal, Policy and Institutional frameworks for Gender Equality: Myanmar acceded to CEDAW in 1997 and reported to CEDAW Committee in 2008 by submitting its 2nd and 3rd combined report. The Myanmar National Committee for Women’s Affairs coordinated by the Department of Social Welfare within the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement is the National Women’s Machinery and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement is the Government designated national focal point Ministry to carry out all matters related to women.  The Department of Social Welfare is currently finalizing a ten-year National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women 2012-2021 (NSPAW). The NSPAW which outlines action for advancement of women in 12 priority areas is expected to be adopted soon and it will provide the basis for capacity development and policy and programme formulation across the different sectors of the government. However, implementation of the NSPAW will be a major challenge as the basic understanding of gender and gender equality is low in DSW and in most parts of the government.

In terms of laws, Myanmar’s legal framework is drawn from a mix of colonial and traditional sources.  A preliminary analysis of laws conducted by the Gender Equality Network[2] reveals that many of the laws are not compatible with CEDAW, as they incorporate restrictive gender stereotypes and are inconsistent with the promotion and protection of women’s rights to substantive equality.

While the Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, 2008, guarantees women’s equality, it does not satisfy CEDAW requirements to also define and prohibit direct and indirect discrimination against women. Some constitutional provisions also reinforce notions that women are incapable of doing the same work as men or are in need of protection because they are weaker than men, rather than ensuring that they have the same opportunities for choice. There are no specific definitions of gender discrimination or penalties for such acts of discrimination as violence against women. In August 2011, the Department of Social Welfare, requested the Gender Equality Network (GEN), to help with the development of laws related to women’s protection, focussing specifically on violence against women in Myanmar. The development of this “Women’s Protection Law” is on-going. More information at CEDAW in Action - Myanmar.

[1]Myanmar: HDI values and rank changes in the 2013 Human Development Report, UNDP, 2013  

[2] The Gender Equality Network is an inter-agency network, comprising national and international NGOs, UN agencies, civil society networks and technical resource. Currently there are close to 30 national NGOs and networks, 14 International NGOs and networks and 10 UN agencies listed as members. The Gender Equality Network works collaboratively with key stakeholders to promote gender equality and women’s protection throughout Myanmar.


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