“Several months pregnant Nesaru Begum fled to Bangladesh along with her two children
after Burmese soldiers burned down her house and set her sister’s body on fire after raping
her. She had to walk for miles barefooted to reach the Bangladesh border. She had to give
birth to her child on the roadside being indisposed , feeble, helpless but there was no help”
Nesaru Begum is one of those Rohingya refugees who headed for the hills from their
ancestral home in the past few months bringing with them the horrendous stories of Myanmar
army leading the clearance operation at the Min Gyi a.k.a Tula Toli village of The Rakhine
According to Inter Sector Co-ordination Group”s rapid report, among these refugees,
10 percent of them are lactating and pregnant mothers.
These rapidly breeding beleaguer Rohingya muslims have always provoked the Buddhist
population in incinerating their homes, removing them successfully from several states,
restricting their access to birth right, water, food health care and etc. The persecution against
them started shortly after the independence. They were declined citizenship in 1948. They
were subjected to the stringent ” Two child Policy” and defying the policy could lead to
imprisonment or feticide of the muslim women, that too by using either the rudimentary
“stick method” abdominal massage. Stick method is a self-induced abortion process where a
stick is inserted into a pregnant woman’s uterus through her vagina. These excruciating
processes often leads to septicemia injuries. Many Rohingya women have died after
complications from these unsafe abortion procedures.
Despite the curtailment of “reproductive rights”, birth rate had skyrocketed in Rakhine State
among muslim communities. Upon arriving at the Ukhia and Teknaf refugee camps,
Rohingya Muslim women have given birth to at least 551 babies. The refugee camps are
filled beyond capacity.
There are several factors contributing to the high fertility rates among Rohingya muslims.
Since the Rohingya’s have been living under apartheid-like policies, They lack any cognizant
knowledge of family planning methods . Rohingya muslim women have always been married
off at a very early age to save them from the jaws of the vicious sexual assault by the
Burmese military forces. They were impregnanted immediately after getting married and
soon after giving birth to a child , they conceived another one as that was thought to be the
only way to save them from the assault.
Being a part of an orthodox Muslim community, as cultural norms hinder reproductive
services, they are reluctant to accept family planning while residing in the camps as well, as
they believe it’s a sin and its against the doctrine of Islam. The wives have been discouraged
by their husbands to take contraceptions for wanting to compensate for the losses. Everyday
around 12 babies are born at the refugee camps. Birth control efforts i.e : Condoms have
failed as they are reluctant to take them, The family planning authorities could manage to
distribute only 549 packets of condoms among the Rohingya refugees. Only 1 in 10 people
have agreed to take up birth control regime.
However Plans are being chalked up to keep the family size small. Approximately 500
volunteers have been deployed to create reproduction rights awareness, Birth control
campaigns and The Bangladeshi Government is offering numerous methods of birth control
to the refugees. They are also planning to introduce voluntary sterilization program for the
refugees residing inside the overcrowded refugee camps in Cox’s bazar district.
ahmed, A.A(2013), The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a
Global War, Musharraf’s Dilemma, pg: 251.
reliefweb.int,Bangladesh: Humanitarian Situation Report, No.5.
bbc.com, Rohingya Refugees Baby Born While Fleeing, 22 September 2017.
HRP (2017), Humanitarian Response Plan
The writer is a multi passionate and observant 23-year-old Dhaka based digital “spinner of yarns”, who writes for a social change. She is also a former UNICEF intern and her work focuses on women’s movements throughout the world, gender equality labor, indigenous movement, reproductive and immigrant rights.