Why so many underage Rohingya girls are getting married, pregnant
Dhaka, Oct 31: Meet 15-year-old Najma (name changed to protect her identity), who has been staying in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district after she fled from Myanmar's Rakhine State in September.
Najma is like any other teenager with a wide smile. However, what will strike you most about the 15-year-old girl is that she is a mother of two children. While her first child was born when she was just 13, Najma gave birth to her second baby after she turned 15 early this year.
Like Najma, in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, hundreds of child brides have taken shelter after violence broke out in Myanmar on August 25. These underage girls are not only married, but in most cases they are either pregnant or are already mothers.
According to a report by Dhaka Tribune, the reason behind so many underage Rohingya refugee brides is that parents of these girls in order to save them from getting sexually assaulted by Myanmar's army men and Mogh extremists are marrying them off at an early age.
The reality came to the forefront as thousands of minor Rohingya girls started to visit medical centres at refugee camps in Cox's Bazar for pregnancy-related diseases.
Moreover, these young girls from Rakhine State try to get pregnant immediately after childbirth as they have the notion that Myanmar's military men and extremists don't harm pregnant women/girls.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Dr AZM Zajid, coordinator of a medical centre near Panbazar at Balukhali of Ukhiya upazila, said: "Every day, some 3,000 to 5,000 Rohingya people visit this centre with numerous diseases. Of them, 400 to 500 are expectant mothers who come to receive treatment for pregnancy-related complications.
"Many of them are suffering from various risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth. We have to struggle to provide treatment to this many patients at a time."
Quoting victims, Zahid said: "In Rakhine, girls are married off at a very young age as their parents hold the belief that army men and Mogh would not target their married daughters.
"And the girls expect baby soon after their marriage. As a result, they each have five to 12 children. Even, we have treated expectant mothers as young as 12/14."
In Rakhine State, it has almost become a social convention for underage girls to get married. Girls as young as 10 years old are also getting married among the Rohingya refugee community.
According to an estimate, at least 604,000 Rohingyas have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since violence broke out in their homeland on August 25.