Addressing sexual violence against Rohingya women
Staying true to its commitment of lending voice to women’s rights issues, Dhaka Lit Fest 2018 conducted a session called “Rape by Command: The Aftermath”.
Rohingya activist and lawyer Razia Sultana, human rights activist Shireen Huq, journalist Gwen Robinson and Maryam Molla, a health-care worker working in the Rohingya camps, sat down with DLF director Sadaf Saaz to discuss the issue of sexual violence faced by Rohingya women, both in Myanmar before they fled, and now in the refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Since the start of this humanitarian crisis, thousands of Rohingya have been displaced, and according to Sadaf Saaz, “at the center of this enormous migration into Bangladesh are the women.”
The panel discussed how these women could get justice for the atrocities committed against them by the Myanmar army. According to Razia Sultana, “Justice for these women would be them being able to claim their identity as ‘Rohingya’, and to be able to go back to their own land.” To achieve justice in legal terms, she pointed out that the survivors would have to relive their trauma and repeat their stories over and over again.
Gwen Robinson said, “At present, the survivors are mostly preoccupied with finding food and shelter, and the focus should be on the new issues facing the women in the refugee camps, including abandonment, domestic violence and child marriage.”
Maryam Molla agreed that these were the pressing issues, and that “it is easier for women to talk about the violence imposed on them by another community than in their own community.”
They discussed whether the Rohingya women would return to Myanmar, concluding that they would want to return only if the situation were to become peaceful. However, Shireen Huq added that some of them would rather kill themselves than return to a situation exactly like the one they fled from.
At the end of the session, Huq discussed the petition sent by Naripokkho, an organization working for women’s rights, to the International Criminal Court, which was successful in persuading the ICC to try these atrocities in their court.