YANGON – Police are investigating a marriage ceremony held between two gay lovers on March 2 after daily newspapers reported the event leading to widespread criticism.
Local dailies The Voice, 7 Day and Democracy Today reported the first public gay marriage ceremony between Myo Min Htet and Tin Ko Ko held on Sunday at the Excel Hotel in Yangon. Police are currently investigating whether they broke a law on same-sex intercourse that can carry up to life in prison.
"Our police force will investigate the wedding reception that was held at the Excel Hotel in Yangon. If it's against the Section 377, we will take legal actions," lieutenant Myint Lwin San from Bahan Police Department told Eleven Media.
The event attracted public criticism, questioning if Myanmar allows same-sex marriages or whether the couple had broken Section 377 of the Penal Code that states:
"Anyone who has sexual intercourse with a male or female or animal abnormally shall be given a life sentence or a sentence of 10 years in prison or a fine or both.”
Myo Min Htet and Tin Ko Ko have been together for 10 years and celebrated their anniversary by getting married in a public ceremony with friends and relatives. Both work with separate local community-based organisations for Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights and healthcare.
This was the first public gay marriage in Myanmar and the couple originally kept the location secret for fear that protestors might interrupt the ceremony.
“I am happy I can make a difference that other people in our community have never done before,” Tin Ko Ko was quoted as saying by the Myanmar Times.
Criticism of the wedding abounded on social media as well as religious organisations, with many calling the ceremony unlawful and against Buddhism.
"Our Buddhism doesn’t allow it. It's not appropriate naturally. We [Buddhist monks] also do not agree with it. We will not support any misconduct that is against the democratic system. It's also against the Buddha teaching. It's not appropriate…We should outlaw it extensively," said U Pamoukka, presiding abbot of the Magway Monastery.
Some Facebook users said the event was a shameful and unacceptable thing for Myanmar.
“I think it's not appropriate to report it as an important issue on front pages. I want to ask them if they support such an illegal act. [The ceremony] is like an assault to our Myanmar community," commented Nari Min on a Facebook discussion.
Only 15 countries in the world officially allow same-sex marriage, but no country in Asia, besides Israel, has yet to support it by law.
Myanmar has 19 organisations that support LGBT rights. Aung Myo Min, director of HREIB, a local organisation that works for gay rights, said that the marriage was not an official marriage but a ceremony among friends to celebrate their relationship.
"They only made the ceremony to show they have been loyal to each other for 10 years among their friends. Our country doesn’t allow same-sex marriage. They explained that their marriage is not in accord with the law," said Aung Myo Min.
Myo Min Htet and Tin Ko Ko were unavailable to comment.