More than 10 months since Myanmar’s army began systematically raping and killing the country’s Muslim Rohingyas in an attempt to drive them from the majority Buddhist country, many women victimized by the soldiers are now giving birth in refugee camps. According to traditional Rohingya culture, rape victims are stigmatized — and giving birth to the baby of a Buddhist is bad enough to constitute sacrilege. As a result, many victims have ended their pregnancies through cheap abortion pills they obtain in the camps. Others give such children away — or are forced to care for infants whose very existence serves to shame them in their eyes of their husbands and the larger community.
One 13-year-old girl, referred to as A, told The Associated Press that her family fled Myanmar for Bangladesh after soldiers broke into their home and raped her. She was too afraid of possible side effects to undergo an abortion, so she and her mother worked to hide the pregnancy by staying inside her shelter and wrapping her body in layers of scarves. She gave birth in the shelter alongside her mother and grandmother, and gave the child away so that one day she might be able to find a husband from her community.
Another woman, M, said that she didn’t dare to tell her husband she had been raped by six soldiers — who also, she said, strangled her 2-year-old son to death in front of her eyes — until after they had escaped to Bangladesh. But after she began showing signs of pregnancy, she had no choice but to tell him what had happened. In response, her husband blamed her for not running away fast enough and said that he wouldn’t ever touch her sexually again.
“You are useless to me,” she said he told her.
M said that she pretends to love the baby, whose face reminds her of her rapists, and that her days are largely spent praying for God to offer her a peaceful end to her life.
“I don’t have any money to buy anything. I am always depressed. My husband doesn’t love me. I want to die as soon as possible,” she said. “My life is meaningless.”
Speaking with The Associated Press, a number of Rohingya woman also defied cultural taboos in order to share their stories of rape and its aftermath — including one woman who explained why she had come to realize that there was no shame in being raped, despite what she was brought up to believe.
Watch video of The Associate Press’ interviews with the Rohingya women below.
Read the full story at The Associated Press.