The role of tolerance in building a peaceful society: the importance of including people with disabilities and LGBTIQA communities in the peace process

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Inclusivity in Myanmar’s peace process means not only the participation of different ethnic and religious groups but of all members of the community. This includes people with disabilities (PWDs) and people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, intersex, queer/questioning and asexual communities (LGBTIQA). The JPF is supporting iSchool-Myanmar work in Central Myanmar with these two groups to help increase their engagement in the peace process.

For many years these two groups have been marginalized, particularly because of common religious beliefs, says U Ye Win, co-founder and programme manager. But that is changing. “We LGBTIQAs and PWDs have equal rights in the new country of Myanmar. The norms and standards that come from religion are not a suitable measurement to judge a person by anymore. These are political rights and also human rights.”

In terms of the peace process, these groups have also been excluded, particularly in central Myanmar, which is often overlooked in the peace process in general. The project of iSchool-Myanmar includes organizing ten peace related trainings in ten townships in the Mandalay Region for PWDs and the LGBTIQA communities.

The project also involves publishing a thousand copies of a peace education book. The “Peaceful Society Reference Book” will be used in every training conducted by iSchool-Myanmar and will also be supplied to libraries in monastic schools in the region. Versions of the book, in braille language, will be disrupted for the visually impaired person.

U Ye Win says the book focuses on peace education and the current peace process and its history. But it also covers multiculturalism, because tolerance of difference is a fundamental aspect of a peaceful society. As well as peace process history, “this book presents the rights of PWDs, LGBTIQAs and indigenous people in Myanmar,” he says.

U Soe Tun, the Director of iSchool, says his organization is working with government ministries and parliamentarians to enact a law to protect PWDs and LGBTIQA communities. But he believes the national school curriculum needs changing so it covers these issues too. He says these rights need to be explained to children from an early age as part of the school curriculum, to avoid discrimination later on. He says: “Children must understand that there are differences among human beings and they should know how to accept them. If we want to create awareness in the next generation, we have to change the school curriculum. We have to teach children to understand diversity and differences from their childhood.”