How does statelessness affect the ‘right to health’?

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Rohingya publication - Melanie Waite.pdf

There is a dearth of academic research on the relationship between statelessness and the right to
health. This paper aims to fill this gap by examining how statelessness renders individuals legally
disenfranchised and vulnerable to health right violations, with a particular focus on the Muslim
Rohingya in Rakhine State. My discussion will centre on Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law that has
failed to accept the Rohingya as a valid ethnic group and bars them from citizenship. As non-citizens of Myanmar, and without legal protection under domestic law, the government has imposed restrictions on the Rohingya that would not be legally justifiable towards citizens who are protected under the Myanmar Constitution. The discriminatory policies imposed on the Rohingya have had negative ramifications on their capability to realise an effective right to health. Examples of restrictive policies include: restrictions on the amount of children the Rohingya can have, prohibition of travel outside townships without permission, and being barred from employment in the health sector. This paper will demonstrate that citizenship, although not a definitive means to secure a right to health, is an important first step in having the legal validity to champion health rights when domestic constitutions violate their safeguarding responsibilities.

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