Thirty-six LGBTQ organizations today released a joint statement condemning what they termed the “very serious case of discrimination and abuse” leading to the death of Kyaw Zin Win, who committed suicide this past weekend after allegedly being outed and bullied by colleagues at Yangon’s Myanmar Imperial University.
The statement mourns the death of the campus librarian and demands justice and accountability from MIU, calling the case a “human rights violation.” They also called on the university to take measures to prevent similar cases from happening in the future, and demanded that legal action be taken against those who engaged in the cyber-bullying and harassment.
Since a Facebook message detailing Win’s allegations of abuse went viral after his death, the university has issued three separate statements, publicly apologizing for the workplace harassment that Win endured, stating that they would launch an internal investigation to find out what transpired, and announcing they had suspended the faculty involved.
Names of the faculty were visible in a Viber group chat for university employees in which Win was mocked after he said he was bullied into revealing is sexual orientation.
“We have suspended the three individuals who are involved in this case. We will launch an investigation into this case with the relevant authorities,” MIU said in a statement released yesterday afternoon.
However, LGBTQ advocates believe the university needs to go further, demanding institutional change to make MIU a place safe for “all students and staff members, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, social status or sexual orientation.”
“An apology is not enough. MIU must take all necessary actions to hold perpetrators accountable and explain why their internal harassment detection mechanisms failed in exposing these abuses,” Juan Miguel Sanchez Marin, Equality Myanmar deputy director told Coconuts Yangon.
“They must revise, strengthen, and enact rules and regulations on harassment, diversity and inclusion to ensure that both their faculty and alumni receive appropriate training and sensitization.”
Win’s suicide puts a sharp spotlight on the issues and challenges that LGBT youth in Myanmar regularly face. Win’s suicide was the third by a young gay man this month to be preceded by episodes of serious bullying, highlighting the lack of legal protections for sexual minorities in a country that still criminalizes same-sex activity in its penal code.
In Myanmar, a conservative country where popular culture regularly demeans the LGBTQ community with jokes, stereotypes and discrimination, there have been major signs of hope in the past decade. Just this year, &Proud hosted the first ever Pride boat parade on the Yangon River, flying the rainbow flag over the former capital.
But while Marin has taken note of a growing awareness and acceptance of LGBT indivuals in Myanmar, he believes the path to equality that will demand action by all quarters.
“[D]ecades of induced prejudice and dicrimination won’t be overturned easily,” he said. “The change needs to happen at all levels of society and must come with political will and legislative changes to consolidate those little progresses.”
Win’s funeral service will be held today at 3:30 PM in Yangon’s Thaketa township, 1st ward, 13th street, number 886.