Half-caste - Burma

Burma

In Burma, a half-caste (or Kabya) was anyone with mixed ethnicity from Burmese and British, or Burmese and Indian. During the British colonial rule, half-caste people were ostracized and criticized in literary and political media. For example, a local publication in 1938 published the following:

"You Burmese women who fail to safeguard your own race, after you have married an Indian, your daughter whom you have begotten by such a tie takes an Indian as her husband. As for your son, he becomes a half-caste and tries to get a pure Burmese woman. Not only you but your future generation also is those who are responsible for the ruination of the race."

An editorial in Burmese Press, 27 November 1938

Similarly, Pu Gale in 1939 wrote Kabya Pyatthana (literally: The Half-Caste Problem), censored Burmese women for enabling half-caste phenomenon, with the claim, "a Burmese woman’s degenerative intercourse with an Indian threatened a spiraling destruction of Burmese society." Such criticism was not limited to a few isolated instances, or just against Burmese girls (thet khit thami), Indians and British husbands. Starting in early 1930s through 1950s, there was an explosion of publications, newspaper articles and cartoons with such social censorship. Included in the criticism were Chinese-Burmese half-castes.

Prior to the explosion in censorship of half-castes in early-20th-century Burma, Thant claims inter-cultural couples such as Burmese-Indian marriages were encouraged by the local population. The situation began to change as colonial developments, allocation of land, rice mills and socio-economic privileges were given to European colonial officials and to Indians brought in Burma by the British with economic incentives. In the late 19th century, the British colonial administration viewed intermarriage as a socio-cultural problem. The colonial administration issued circulars prohibiting European officials from conjugal liaisons with indigenous women. In Burma, as in other colonies in Southeast Asia, intimate relations between colonized women and colonizing men, and the half-caste progeny of such unions were considered harmful to white minority rule founded upon carefully maintained racial hierarchies.

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