May 22, 2018, 11:44 am IST
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Rohingya women facing worst sexual violence: UN

Rohingya women facing worst sexual violence: UN

 May 16, 2018

Despite the Human Rights organisations and NGOs all over the world stepping up to fight for the rights of Rohingya refugees, who fled Myanmar's violence-affected Rakhine state to find shelters in Bangladesh last year, but the rising crime statistics against women cast a harsh light on the country's systematic problems plaguing the police and court.

According to the latest UN report on conflict-related sexual violence, issued in March, members of the Myanmar Armed Forces, at times acting jointly with local militias, used rape, gangrape, forced public nudity and other sexual attacks as part of a strategy to drive the Rohingya from their homes.

Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, flew to Bangladesh in November to meet the refugees. All the Rohingya women and girls that she spoke to, she said, reported either enduring sexual violence or witnessing it.

''I met a number of profoundly traumatised women who related how their daughters were allegedly raped inside their home and left to perish when the houses were torched,'' Ms Patten told the Security Council.

''Some witnesses reported women and girls being tied to either a rock or a tree before multiple soldiers literally raped them to death. Many reported having witnessed family members, friends and neighbours being slaughtered in front of them. The two words that echoed across every account I heard were 'slaughter' and 'rape'.''With the monsoon season fast approaching in Bangladesh, United Nations agencies and their partners are struggling to protect nearly 700,000 Rohingya refugees from disaster and disease.

The displaced population includes around 40,000 pregnant women, UN officials estimate, many of whom are expected to give birth in the coming weeks. An unknown but significant share of these pregnancies, aid officials believe, resulted from rapes committed by the members of the Myanmar army and allied militants.

Pregnancies resulting from ''what we believe could have been a frenzy of sexual violence in August and September last year could come to term very soon,'' Andrew Gilmour, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, told UN News. ''So, we are expecting a surge of births.''

In March, Gilmour travelled to Cox's Bazar on Bangladesh’s south-east coast, where the refugees have settled in camps and makeshift clearings after escaping violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Fearing stigma, sometimes feeling depressed or shamed, pregnant refugee women are often reluctant to admit that they were raped, according to medical and aid workers in the camp.

But these workers, from non-governmental groups, told Gilmour that ''they can just see from the faces of the girls who are pregnant that something terrible happened,'' he reported.

''There is no joy whatsoever, nor is there any talk of a husband, either back home or with them in the camps.''While Bangladesh has been praised for its support for the refugees, conditions in Cox's Bazar remain challenging due to the sheer number of people crammed into what is now the world's largest refugee camp.

Gilmour fears monsoon conditions could inflict further hardship on Rohingya women, who have already suffered immensely and who now lack access to adequate medical services as they approach childbirth.

''It will be even harder for them when the rains prevent access because there will be serious flooding, we fear. There may be landslides, there may be a cholera outbreak, there may be many things that will make it even harder for the girls to get the medical attention they so desperately need,'' he said. (UNI)


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