A bill requiring some mothers to space their children three years apart, which activists fear might be used to oppress women and ethnic and religious minorities, has been signed into law by Myanmar president Thein Sein. The bill was drafted under the pressure of hard-line Buddhist monks and passed parliament last month, despite protests from human rights activists and a U.S. diplomat. In the predominantly Buddhist country, monks are concerned that the high birthrates of the country’s Muslim minority (only 10 percent of the population) will result in them “overtaking the country.” While the government has argued that the law will help lower maternal and infant mortality rates, activists say it interferes with women’s reproductive rights and could be used to suppress the growth of minority groups. In a private meeting with President Sein, just a day before he signed the law, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken voiced his strong concerns. “The legislation contains provisions that can be enforced in a manner that would undermine reproductive rights, women’s rights and religious freedom,” Blinken said. “We shared the concerns that these bills can exacerbate ethic and religious divisions and undermine the country’s efforts to promote tolerance and diversity.”
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