Similar to other former British colonies in the region, Myanmar still has Section 377 of the penal code on its books. This law criminalizes “carnal intercourse,” which includes same-sex intercourse, and it is punishable by a sentence spanning from 10 years to life in prison. Its recent history saw the suppression of equal rights and diversity claims under the rule of an oppressive military junta from 1962 to 2011. Myanmar was long considered to be a “pariah state,” until recent widespread reforms prompted an increase of political freedom within the country and a partial reinstatement of relations with the outside world. Since then, the LGBT community has had greater visibility but still faces an uphill better to have their basic freedoms and human rights respected.

The current legal framework permits the harassment, unlawful arrest and physical abuse of LGBT persons, and particularly of trans individuals.

LGBT people are often targets of abuse and discrimination in Myanmar, at times perpetrated by the State itself. The current legal framework permits the harassment, unlawful arrest and physical abuse of LGBT persons, and particularly of trans individuals. The political situation also makes for a notable scarcity of activists campaigning openly (even in comparison to neighbour countries in the region), as well as a limited public awareness of LGBT issues. The wider national culture also bears influence here: very few dialogues are held about sex, and ideas about homosexuality and gender diversity are framed through a lens of foreignness. Report have shown that hostility against LGBT persons is undermining the fight against HIV/AIDS in Myanmar — which, according to the World Health Organization, has one of Asia’s highest HIV prevalence rates. Particularly in the case of men who have sex with men, criminalization laws and social stigma keep them hidden and harder to reach, and make them more likely to engage in unprotected sex. In some areas (such as the big cities of Yangon and Mandalay), as many as 29 percent of men having sex with men are HIV positive, according to a 2010 report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. Political reforms in the country have been slowing down since 2014 according to International Organizations like the Human Rights Watch. Yet discussion about constitutional reform continues and the LGBT community stands to benefit from these wider liberalizations – however, conservative forces are still pushing for stricter enforcement of Section 377 of the Penal Code, thus reinforcing the stark divide between old and new Myanmar.

Formerly known as The Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, EQMM has played a central role in coordinating a wide range of advocacy campaigns over the years to raise awareness about the human rights situation in Myanmar at local, national, regional, and international levels. Additionally, the organization produces a range of human rights educational materials, audio/visual tools, and other multimedia resources in order to address the lack of human rights information available in Burmese and ethnic languages.
Initially a project of the NGO Equality Myanmar, Colors Rainbow became an organization in 2013. Addressing LGBT rights from a multifaceted program perspective, they promote trainings, discussions, networking meetings, community events, lobbying, advocacy and research projects; produce multimedia resources in local languages using their website; and produce a magazine covering LGBT rights issues in Myanmar. (Also referred to as Myanmar LGBT Rights Network).
&Proud is a non-profit initiative of a number of organizations and individuals in Yangon. Established in 2014 to organize cultural events in Myanmar for the LGBT community, it aims to bring together the community and make LGBT persons more visible to the rest of the Myanmar society. Its main activities consist of film festivals and photo exhibitions. Recently, the Rainbow Reels initiative offers film-making workshops focusing on skills useful when sharing LGBT stories, particularly by LGBT people through cinema.
Rays of Rainbow is a community-based organization located in Kawthaung, Myanmar. Rays of Rainbow’s approach is to raise awareness of human rights and LGBT rights among LGBT and non-LGBT persons from Kawthuang, Myeik and Dawei. The organization was established in March 2006 with the aim of promoting human rights and LGBT rights within the Burmese migrant community.

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