Burmese women: An enigma
Burma houses one of the most diverse and exotic cultures in the world. In a nutshell, Burma is a mixture of Buddhist beliefs paired with a rich background in arts, literature topped off with a remarkable landscape. Anyone who has a heart for anything avant garde and adventure will surely love this place. Burma considers itself sanctified in the sense that it does not welcome tourism that much in spite of its economic situation. However, over the past few years, it has invited and embraced the curiosity of the public. Are Burmese women any different from other Asian women?
One of the most delicate issues people want to address is gender equality. Women from other countries in Asia believe that men are superior to them while some believe that this should not be the case. As expected, many guests have given their opinions regarding this issue. There are nonconformist opinions as there are opinions you would expect. Either way, all that has been said seems to be contradictory to each other – which is not such a surprise.
The best way to settle this issue is to hear it from a Burmese woman herself. Daw Mya Sein, a descent from an ethnic group in Burma called Mon, that the observation of tourists and other foreigners about gender inequality has no solid basis. In order to really know the concepts surrounding the point in question, one must look into the history of Burmese women. Independence goes way back. Burmese women earned the respect and recognition they deserve because they know how to handle monetary problems and are a significant part of the government. Some Burmese women were even crowned as queen. The only standpoint where these women feel inferior to men is their mental capabilities. Generally, Burmese women believe that men can achieve more than women mentally. To avoid bias sentiments on this opinion, Aung San Suu Kyi, a leader on democracy and human rights in Burma, feels differently. She thinks Burmese women are “invisible” and though there have been changes, the progress is slow and far from realistic.
What people see in media maybe very different from the actual events. For instance, one town in Burma practices a rather unfair tradition. When a husband dies, his property goes directly to the nearest male relatives. When they divorce, the wife is deprived of conjugal rights. This is unacceptable in all its characteristics and women activists have deemed this as discrimination.
So, everyone else has spoken out – activists, foreigners, distinguished women and the media. But what does the subject; being the Burmese women; feel? Sadly, they remain quiet, just moving with the tides of tradition. Acquiring more human rights is not part of their priority. Instead, a Burmese woman is obliged to “treat your son like a master, your husband, like God.” Surprisingly, statistics show that only 18% of Burmese women over 25 years old are able to step into secondary school. The government workforce is 96% men, living a very small 4% for women to run the country.
That being said, is it safe to say that gender inequality is really present in Burma? Are the statistics a clear representation that something needs to be done? Will there ever be a day that a Burmese woman is going to be crowned Queen once again?