Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises LGBT people
  • Criminalises sexual activity between males
  • Criminalises the gender expression of trans people

Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Penal Code 1860, which criminalises acts of ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature’. This provision carries a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment. Only men are criminalised under this law. In addition to potentially being captured by laws that criminalise same-sex activity, trans people may also face prosecution under the Police Act 1945, with a maximum penalty of three months’ imprisonment.

The law was inherited from the British during the colonial period, in which the English criminal law was imposed upon Myanmar. Myanmar retained the provision upon independence and continues to criminalise same-sex sexual activity today.

There is some evidence of the law being enforced in recent years, particularly against transgender people who are regularly arrested by police, and the law is often also used to extort bribes from LGBT people. There have been some reports of discrimination and violence being committed against LGBT people in recent years, including harassment and discrimination in accessing services. Following the military coup in February 2021, LGBT people have been frequently arrested, detained, assaulted, and even murdered when protesting.



In June, Justin Min Hein, president of the LGBTQ Union in the country’s central Mandalay region, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for violating the Anti-Terrorism Act. Justin Min Hein was arrested by the junta in September 2022 and  detained in Yay Kyi Ai Interrogation Center for almost a year awaiting his trial. He had organised a strike, flash protests, and other campaigns in Mandalay prior to his arrest.


Between February 2021 and September 2022, the minister of human rights of the National University Government (government in exile) reported at least seven LGBT community members died and another 37 were arrested while peacefully protesting against the regime.

The US Department of State reports that ”LGBTQI+ prodemocracy supporters were targeted for humiliation by regime officials after arrest, suffering sexual insults, taunts, mocking of clothing, and physical abuse at rates greater than those endured by other prisoners.” According to Colors Rainbow, a local LGBT NGO, regime police beat a gay man after going through private messages on his cell phone. Regime police reportedly taunted him with slurs and beat his legs with batons until he could not walk.


A report by ILGA Asia, found that there had been at least 17 arrests in Mandalay and as many as 50 arrests in other regions under section 377.


In March, an openly gay restaurant owner was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, having been arrested in 2018. However, reports suggest this case involved an allegation of sexual assault, though others suggest the man was targeted due to his activism.


The US Department of State report noted that the law was rarely enforced, but that LGBT people reported that police relied on the threat of prosecution to extort bribes. Transgender women in particular were most frequently charged under so-called ‘shadow and disguise’ laws, which allow police to arrest people based upon the way they act and dress.


Colours Rainbow, a local LGBT organisation, reported that the ‘disguise’ provisions of the Police Act 1945 was often used in conjunction with Section 30(c) of the Rangoon Police Act 1899, both of which provide the police with broad powers of seizure and imprisonment without warrant or justification, in order to “harass, arrest, detain, imprison and extort gay and transgender individuals living in Myanmar”.


In July police arrested two transgender women in Mandalay. One of the women reported to OutRight Action International that the police had “forcibly pulled off [their] clothes, kicked and beat [them]. [Their] breasts were squeezed, scratched and beaten with police batons”. These allegations were denied by the Mandalay Police, who alleged that this series of arrests were in respect of “police disturbances” and to “save the public from moral deviance”, charges with no basis in law.

Discrimination and Violence


A report by ILGA Asia found a range of human rights violations against the LGBT community including familial ostracisation and abuse, discrimination in employment, education, and healthcare, as well as physical and sexual assaults during detention, and extortion. 

Following the February military coup and mass protests that have taken place in response, LGBT individuals and groups that have taken part have been targeted by military crackdowns on protestors. Reports suggest that LGBT activists have been arrested during night-time raids of safe houses and charged with ‘defamation of the military’. Further, reports state that one member of the LGBT community was shot and killed while taking part in the protests.

A report in June suggested that the LGBT anti-coup protestors were being targeted for humiliation by security forces, including sexual insults, taunts, and mockery of dress and appearance. At that time it was reported that at least 45 LGBT protestors had been arrested, 35 of whom were still detained, and at least six have been killed during street protests.

A further report in December found that at least 80 LGBT people were arrested as part of the anti-coup protests, most of whom were still detained, with another 17 being killed. A further 40 were in hiding to avoid arrest and torture.


The US Department of State report noted that political reforms in recent years made it easier for the LGBT community to hold public events and openly participate in society, though discrimination and stigma persisted. Transgender people were particularly vulnerable to police harassment, and the community faced discrimination in employment and healthcare. 


report commissioned by Denmark-Myanmar Programme on Rule of Law and Human Rights documents violence and persecution experienced by LGBT people in Myanmar, recommending the repeal of section 377 of the Penal Code and the repeal or amendment of other laws used to target LGBT people.


Local Organisations


a local organisation which runs a sexual orientation and gender identity programme to raise awareness of the rights of LGBT people.

Colors Rainbow

an organisation promoting public awareness of LGBT issues through networking, training, events, research, and advocacy.

Equality Myanmar

a broad based human rights organisation working on a number of issues in Myanmar, including LGBT rights.

Related Countries


Bangladesh criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men. Sentences include a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.


Malaysia criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. The gender expression of trans people is also criminalised. Sentences include a maximum penalty of twenty years’ imprisonment and whipping.


Singapore criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men. Sentences include a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.

Support our Work

Almost 70 countries still criminalise LGBT people. Together, we can bring this number down. A donation today will help continue our vital support for LGBT people and governments seeking to change laws around the world.


Sign up to receive updates

Join our newsletter to receive regular updates about decriminalisation efforts around the world, including breaking news on key legal cases, hot off the press reports, invitations to events and messages from our Chief Executive.