Warning: The original article is upsetting and may trigger some readers.
The Rohingya people have had to endure agony for years: statelessness, poverty, hunger, persecution, and military attacks – and now forced child marriage is on the rise. ABC News shares the stories of Rohingya girls who are sold into marriage to Malaysia as the only chance for them and their families to survive.
Childhoods ended through forced marriages
Fourteen-year-old M* was trafficked through Myanmar and Thailand to be married to a 35-year-old man. On her journey, she was beaten, raped, and abused several times. Now, her husband rapes her almost every night, trying to impregnate her against her will.
It wasn’t her choice. None of this was. Not the decision to leave behind everything she knew, nor the arranged marriage for which she was not ready.
Before coming to Malaysia, 13-year-old T* used to play with her friends in Bangladesh’s refugee camps. Today, she is married to a 27-year-old man who prohibits her from leaving the house. Since the wedding night, he has regularly raped her, impatiently waiting for T to get pregnant.
For 16-year-old S*, this nightmare has become a reality – she is seven months pregnant. Her 25-year-old husband divorced her when he found out, leaving her begging on the street.
“From the moment we are born, every day we face difficulty after difficulty.” – S
Excruciating vulnerabilities of Rohingya girls
The vulnerability of Rohingya girls is multifaceted, rooted in the confluence of dire circumstances in Myanmar, limited options in neighboring Bangladesh, and the absence of legal protections in Malaysia. Escaping violence and persecution in Myanmar, many families resort to selling their daughters to Malaysia for arranged marriages.
Subjected to harrowing journeys marked by human trafficking, violence, and sexual abuse, the girls find themselves in situations where control and abuse persist. Moreover, the absence of legal status in Malaysia, coupled with the country’s non-signatory status to the U.N. refugee convention, further deters them from reporting assaults. This perpetuates a cycle of exploitation and suffering.
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*Names changed to first initial in the original story.