Gender-based violence in the Rohingya Camps, what should be done?

In the refugee camps domestic violence happens almost on a daily basis. The problem is often overlooked, ignored, denied or mostly silenced by the perpetrator and the surrounding people. While 6 months ago domestic violence was increasing at an alarming rate at Rohingya refugee camps, it is now improving, but more focus and efforts is needed.

According to the RRRC-UNHCR Family Counting exercise, there are 903,788 refugees identified in camps in Cox’s Bazar and out of which approximately 60% are women and children.

Women, girls, and even children are at risk of various gender-based violence, such as early, and forced marriage, trafficking, and prostitution. Some has forced their young girls as young as 11 into marriage with a hope to secure food and ensure someone to protect their child. And some are sold to older people both in the camp and as far as India claiming it is for a better and secure life.

Overcrowded camps and limited privacy increase security risks for women and girls.

Above all deprivation of education, lack of awareness, low wages, lack of access to healthcare, poor quality of living are major causes of gender-based violence.

On the other hand, early marriage coupled with lack of education and income tends to be a dominant factor in the increase of divorces.

According to the paper “Gender-based violence among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh: a public health challenge” published in Indian Journal of Medical Ethics in July-September 2018 the following recommendations were made:

(a) extensive research on the magnitude, determinants and risks of gender based violence among Rohingya refugees

(b) sensitisation, training of community healthcare providers, community leaders and youth

(c) establishment of a referral system that provides survivors access to specialist healthcare providers

(d) Addressing socioeconomic vulnerabilities and providing safe spaces (adequate living amenities, educational and employment opportunities) to Rohingya women and girls

(e) strengthening law enforcement and

(f ) collaborations between local and global organizations for multi-pronged action against gender-based violence.

The recent UNHCR’s “Volunteer outreach program” which recruits men to challenge gender violence and forced marriages has created some awareness.

Yet intensive efforts are needed from both healthcare professionals and policymakers to ensure the rights of women and girl and provide them adequate protection and safety.