Marriage or misery: Rohingya women’s journey to a better life - GulfToday

Marriage or misery: Rohingya women’s journey to a better life


Picture used for illustrative purpose. File

Gulf Today Report

It has been three years since Rohingya people fleed Myanmar, a lot of those refugees have found homes in Bangladesh.

Living in an overcrowded refugee camp – hopeless and starving, they are made to feel a burden or leave, risking death, rape, human trafficking at sea to reach husbands they have never met.

 This is the reality of a lot of Rohingya women who fled persecution in Myanmar.

Desperate for a better life, parents in overcrowded Bangladeshi refugee camps are marrying off their daughters to Rohingya men in Malaysia.

Via phone calls or video apps, the girls are married off while they rely on infrequent calls with their partners until they can make the dangerous journey to reach them.

Jannat Ara got married to Nur Alam, a Rohingya man living in Kuala Lumpur,

"My parents kept asking me to find a way to reach Malaysia -- living with them, I was just an extra mouth to feed," she said.

Jannat Ara has seven siblings and to feed the family relies on 25 kilogram of rice that comes in twice a month.

Ara left the camp to seek the husband she has never met due to pressure from relatives.

Thousands of Rohingyas are stateless and unable to travel abroad legally. For girls like Ara, to get to their new husbands they have to rely on smugglers. 


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From a rickshaw to a small boat and finally a dilapidated trawler, Ara began her journey to Malaysia.

Unfortunately, Malaysia denied it entry and "after floating at sea for two months and seeing many people die, we returned to the place where we started," the 20-year-old recapped.

For 18-year-old Janu, she was aware of the danger before deciding to embark on the journey to her husband in Malaysia.

Although her marriage was arranged by her parents like her other counterparts, she had no pressure to leave. She voluntarily left to start a new life.

But her journey turned out to be the stuff of nightmares.

 The trip that was supposed to take a week, took 200-days as the trawler was blocked from landing in Malaysia. Also, the smugglers refused to release those on board without extra payments from their relatives.

"The captain told my husband that if he did not give money, he will torture and kill me and throw me into the sea," she said.

 The smugglers eventually dumped their human cargo in northern Indonesia.

Janu and 300 others found themselves in another refugee camp in Lhokseumawe city.

Her fiancée sends money when he is able but doesn’t have plans to come to get her in Indonesia.

Glorene Das, executive director of Tenaganita, an NGO that works with migrants and refugees in Malaysia, said that reaching their destination is not the end of the nightmare for the girls and women.

A lot of them face domestic abuse in the “very closed” communities and the women are left helpless because they have few rights and little access to help.





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