Pride Must Not Be Silenced

June 20th, 2024  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  8 minute read
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“This is our revolution—we are getting married and drawing strength from other people fighting for justice. We are very proud of it, and I am thankful to people who are fighting for justice.”

a queer couple from Myanmar

As people around the world celebrate Pride Month, Pride in Myanmar is being silenced as the LGBTQIA+ community continues to experience structural and interpersonal discrimination, gender-based violence, sexual harassment, abuse, exploitation, and torture. With Myanmar’s LGBTQIA+ community struggling to survive, Myanmar’s democratic institutions and bottom-up governance structures—including resistance forces and Ethnic Resistance Organizations (EROs)—must fully recognize LGBTQIA+ people as a fundamental and integral part of Myanmar’s society, while acknowledging their contributions to and sacrifices for the Spring Revolution and recognizing their rights.

The LGBTQIA+ community has always been a part of the people’s movements in the past. And particularly in the Spring Revolution, they have played a significant and multifaceted role, demonstrating resilience, solidarity, and leadership in the face of adversity. LGBTQIA+ activists were first among those who actively came out to the frontline of the Spring Revolution, organizing and leading the protests following the Myanmar military’s coup attempt. Many LGBTQIA+ activists later joined the armed resistance movement, while many others continue their defiant political activism, human rights, and humanitarian work. LGBTQIA+ people have collaborated with other civil society groups to advocate for human rights and social justice, emphasizing the intersectionality of their struggle with the broader democratic aspirations of the Myanmar nationwide movement.

Despite their significant contributions to the Spring Revolution, the LGBTQIA+ community in Myanmar continues to face discrimination and systemic struggles on the ground. Historically marginalized and subjected to systemic discrimination, the LGBTQIA+ community has faced a dramatic escalation in persecution, discrimination, torture, abuse, and harassment since the coup attempt. While many cases remain unreported and, thus, unknown, one of the most recent incidents that highlights the ongoing life-threatening situation facing the community is a case at the Thayarwaddy Prison: In early February 2024, Ye Yint Ko, a 24-year-old LGBTQIA+ political prisoner, was sexually assaulted by another inmate. When the activist resisted rape, the inmate struck him on the head with a hard object, causing a head injury that necessitated stitches at the prison hospital.

What happened to Ye Yint Ko is not an isolated case. On 30 June 2022, a transgender political prisoner was sexually assaulted by prison staff at Monywa Prison, Sagaing Region. In a similar case, Nawarat Aung Aung, a transgender activist, was arrested on 18 May 2021, and tortured by a group of police personnel. Recalling those moments, Nawarat Aung Aung said, “They made me kneel down with my arms in the air while they got drunk. It was like they were being entertained. They drank and tortured me all night.”

LGBTQIA+ individuals are often subjected to rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment. As described by a trans woman detained at Kyunchaung police station, “They beat me and tortured me…. I was sexually harassed and assaulted … They forced me to knee (sic) on the sand under the brutally hot sun… When I passed out, they would splash me with some water, and then put me under the sun again.” These horrifically disturbing tactics employed by the Myanmar military to target civilians further entrench a culture of impunity, particularly against marginalized and disenfranchised individuals who have joined the resistance movement. The recurring and ongoing pattern of the junta’s assaults and torture of LGBTQIA+ individuals underscore longstanding discrimination and stigmatization, perpetuating harmful societal norms against the community.

Also exacerbating the overall struggle of Myanmar’s LGBTQIA+ people is the lack of safe space and representation in decision-making processes within the Spring Revolution. While it cannot be compared to the level of terror inflicted by the junta, the social and cultural stigmas around LGBTQIA+ people are still present among resistance forces, and reflect broader oppressive and discriminatory beliefs within the entire society. The Spring Revolution has yet to overcome stereotypical gender roles and biases related to society’s attachment to the so-called “masculinity” particularly associated with violence and war, further marginalizing LGBTQIA+ people.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s Parliament has recently passed the Marriage Equality Bill, making Myanmar’s neighbor the first country in Southeast Asia to recognize same-sex marriage. The reality faced by Myanmar LGBTQIA+ persons has forced their community to remain silent during Pride Month. Only those residing in Thailand were able to join their Thai counterparts’ demonstrations in solidarity with Myanmar and Gaza. The military junta’s ongoing terror campaign has led those activists involved in the people’s revolution to focus on their efforts to dismantle the military and win the revolution, while also delivering humanitarian aid to civilians fleeing the military’s violence. Consequently, those inside Myanmar chose to remain silent in the public domain over increasing their visibility to avoid persecution by the military in a climate where their safety and security are far from assured.

As Myanmar’s resistance forces drastically expand territories under their control, and bottom-up representative bodies and local governance institutions emerge in most liberated areas of the country, inequalities and social barriers faced by the LGBTQIA+ community must be addressed. Failure to do so will not only jeopardize the Spring Revolution’s long-term goal of building a truly inclusive society, but also undermine efforts to establish sustainable democratic principles that embrace the full diversity of Myanmar’s population. LGBTQIA+ individuals in Myanmar must be afforded their human dignity and rights to live their lives as their full authentic selves, loud and proud. The National Unity Government and resistance forces must recognize and guarantee the rights of LGBTQIA+ people, provide legal protection, and implement equality and non-discrimination policies within their respective legal systems or regulatory frameworks.

Celebrating their love during the Pride parade in Chiang Mai, Thailand, a queer couple from Myanmar said, “This is our revolution—we are getting married and drawing strength from other people fighting for justice. We are very proud of it, and I am thankful to people who are fighting for justice.”

[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

စစ်ကောင်စီနှင့် ရက္ခိုင့်တပ်တော် (AA)တို့သည် ရိုဟင်ဂျာလူမျိုးများ အပေါ်နေ့စဥ်နှင့်အမျှ လူမဆန်စွာ ရက်စက်ကြမ်းကြုတ်မှုနှင့် ရာဇဝတ် မှုများကျူးလွန်နေမှုအပေါ် ထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights

ချင်းပြည်(Chinland) ကောင်စီ သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Chinland Council

Open letter: Inquiry Regarding TASAKI’s business partnership with sanctioned entity Myanmar Pearls Enterprise

By Justice For Myanmar and Mekong Watch

Open letter: Inquiry regarding human rights due diligence in relation to TASAKI’s business partnership with sanctioned entity Myanmar Pearls Enterprise

By Justice For Myanmar and Mekong Watch

ကရင်နီအမျိုးသမီးအစည်းအရုံး သတ္တမအကြိမ်မြောက်ညီလာခံ ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By Karenni National Women’s Organization

Statement Regarding Internet Shutdown by Terrorist Myanmar Military Council

By National Unity Government

[ပူးတွဲထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်] မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ၏ လူ့အခွင့်အရေးအကျပ်အတည်းနှင့်ပတ်သက်၍ တီမောလက်စတေနိုင်ငံတွင် ကျင်းပသော လူထုကြားနာပွဲ

By Progressive Voice, FORUM-ASIA, ALTSEAN-Burma and Initiatives for International Dialogue

US Gov’t and UN Member States Must Provide Direct Support to Myanmar’s Resistance Actors Now

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Threat to Livelihoods Deepens as Myanmar Economic Outlook Remains Weak

By The World Bank

Advance Notice and Emergency Announcement Regarding Maungdaw Township

By United League of Arakan (Arakan Army)



Coup Watch Briefer May 2024: Burma on the Brink

By ALTSEAN-Burma, Asia Democracy Network, Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development, Burma Human Rights Network, Initiatives for International Dialogue, International Federation for Human Rights, Progressive Voice, US Campaign for Burma and Women’s Peace Network

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေး အစိုးရ၊ ကျန်းမာရေးဝန်ကြီးဌာန၏ (၃) နှစ်တာကာလအတွင်း ဆောင်ရွက်ချက်များ (၂၀၂၁ – ၂၀၂၄)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Health)

The Accountability, Politics, and Humanitarian Toll of the Rohingya Genocide

By New Line Institute

စစ်အုပ်စု၏ အစုလိုက်အပြုံလိုက်သတ်ဖြတ်မှုများ (ဇန်နဝါရီလ ၂၀၂၄ – ဧပြီလ၂၀၂၄)

By Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica

Massacre Carried out by the Military (January 2024 – April 2024)

By Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica

Myanmar Economic Monitor: Livelihoods Under Threat (English)

By The World Bank

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”