Women leaders
Women's organizations


Officially, Union of Myanmar, also called Burma, Burmese Myanmar, or Pyidaungzu Myanma Naingngandaw country located in the western portion of mainland Southeast Asia. It has an area of 261,228 square miles (676,577 square kilometers). It is bordered by China to the north and northeast, Laos to the east, Thailand to the southeast, the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal to the south and southwest, Bangladesh to the west, and India to the northwest.

In 1989 the country's official English name was changed from the Union of Burma to the Union of Myanmar; in the Burmese language the country has been known as Myanmar (or, more precisely, Mranma PraƱ) since the 13th century. Also in 1989, the English name of the capital, Rangoon, was dropped in favor of the common Burmese name, Yangoon.

Despite multiparty elections in 1990 that resulted in the main opposition party winning a decisive victory, the military junta ruling the country refused to hand over power. Key opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest from 1989 to 1995, continues to have her activities restricted; her supporters are routinely harassed or jailed. The present head of state and government is General Than Shwe, officially known as the Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council.

Women in Myanmar
In general women traditionally have enjoyed a high social and economic status and have exercised most of the same basic rights as men.  Consistent with traditional culture, women keep their names after marriage and often control family finances.  However, women remained underrepresented in most traditional male occupations, and women continued to be barred effectively from a few professions, including the military officer corps.  The burden of poverty, which is particularly widespread in rural areas, also fell disproportionately on women.

Women do not receive consistently equal pay for equal work.  Women legally were entitled to receive up to 26 weeks of maternity benefits; however, in practice these benefits often were not accorded to women.  In an effort to combat trafficking in women, the Government also has begun to discourage women from marrying foreigners and to restrict foreign travel by women.  However, it has not enforced these restrictions consistently.

There are no independent women's rights organizations.  The National Committee for Women's Affairs in the Ministry of Social Welfare is charged with safeguarding women's interests.  The Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association, a government-controlled agency, provided assistance to mothers.  A professional society for businesswomen, the Myanmar Women Entrepreneurs' Association, which was formed in 1995, provided loans to new businesses and made charitable donations

Women and minorities were underrepresented in the Government and the top ranks of government services.  They also were excluded from military leadership.  There were no female members of the SPDC, ministers, or Supreme Court judges.

Read more about women's rights in Myanmar or Burma.

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Links to Burma

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Important political facts

Government type: Military Regime

Head of State: Chairperson of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). The incumbent is General Than Shwe, who first took office in April 1992 as chair of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).

Legislature: Unicameral. The 485-member People's Assembly or Pyithu Hluttaw. Members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms.

Executive: The head of government is the SPCDP Chair, who appoints the members of his government.

Most recent elections
Legislative: May 1990. Most of the seats were won by the National League for Democracy (NLD), which is headed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The results of this election were not recognized by the military's SLORC. Prior to this election, the military formed the dictatorial Taingyintha Silonenyinyutye (National Unity Party). They lost heavily.

Major Parties: No parties are allowed after the 1990 elections. However, members-in-exile of NLD are very active including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is still under house arrest in Burma.

Women in Power: Based on the report of the US State Department's Human Rights Desk, there were no female members of the SPDC, ministers, or Supreme Court judges.

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Political resources on Burma

Women's situation
Women in Myanmar
Links to Burma
Important political facts
Political resources