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Anti-Slavery International

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e-mail: antislavery@antislavery.org
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UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Sixtieth session
15th March – 23rd April 2004

Oral intervention delivered by Anti-Slavery International on 6th April 2004

Item 12 – Integration of the human rights of women and the gender perspective:
(a) Violence against women

Mr. Chairman,

Anti-Slavery International would like to call the attention of the Commission to the situation
of Rohingya women in Northern Rakhine State of Myanmar [Burma].

The root causes of the problems they faced lie with the policies of exclusion and
discrimination carried out by the military regime against this Muslim population. The 1982
Citizenship Law renders them stateless and their freedom of movement is severely restricted,
as they need a permit to travel even to a neighbouring village.

In addition, conservative cultural and religious practices give Rohingya women a subordinate
status within their own community and their level of economic and political participation is
almost non-existent. The majority are illiterate and live in abject poverty.

Constant demands for forced labour on their male relatives and extortion by the authorities
put a heavy toll on the economic survival of the whole family. There are many instances
where the husband fled to escape from forced labour or from arrest because of non-payment
of taxes or overstaying of travel permits. The wife is then left behind with her children. She
is suddenly compelled to find a means to feed them and she becomes particularly vulnerable
to sexual harassment and rape.

Moreover, a series of measures have been imposed to control birth and limit expansion of
the Rohingya population. In Northern Rakhine State, unlike any other part of Myanmar,
Muslim couples must apply for permission to get married, which is only granted in exchange

Living in such an oppressive environment with no protection. We appeal to this Commission [to address their situation of statelessness with the Government of Myanmar and] to do everything within its power to ensure that their fundamental rights are respected and guaranteed. Mr.for high bribes and can take up to several years to obtain. as they have to declare their pregnancy to the NaSaKa and sometimes even show their belly. Unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions are reportedly on the rise. women’s dignity is greatly offended. it has also been reported in 2004 that women are being prohibited from having more than 3 children. In North Maungdaw. These obstacles to marriage are destroying the social fabric of the community and the authorities punish couples discovered to meet secretly with a fine or jail sentence for illegal relationship. too. not only as illegal migrants. Others have relied on people smugglers to go to Pakistan or Saudi Arabia to join their husbands or relatives already there. Even after marriage. The voices and cries of Rohingya women should no longer be left unheard. Mr. In the event of a fourth pregnancy. . they are denied protection. Chairman. Many young couples have abandoned their parents and fled toBangladesh in order to live together. but also as stateless persons. the husband will be beaten and the authorities will refuse to register the newborn child. Thank you. Chairman. Measures need to be put in place urgently to allow them to live in full human dignity. many women have fled to Bangladesh where they are considered as illegal migrants and face slavery-like labour conditions in order to survive. There.