World

Myanmar using rape as weapon against Rohingya

COX'S BAZAR:  Rape is being used as a weapon of war in the Rohingya crisis, with no woman safe from the risk of sexual attack as Myanmar's Muslim minority is driven out of its homeland.

Doctors treating some of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar have seen dozens of women with injuries consistent with violent sexual attacks, according to United Nations clinicians.

Women interviewed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation tell of violent rape by Myanmar security forces as they fled their homes.

"The (Myanmar) military has clearly used rape as one of a range of horrific methods of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya," said Ms Skye Wheeler, a sexual violence expert with Human Rights Watch who has assessed the fast-filling camps.

"Rape and other forms of sexual violence has been widespread and systematic as well as brutal, humiliating and traumatic."

RESPONSE

Myanmar dismisses all such accusations of ethnic cleansing, saying it has to tackle insurgents, whom it accuses of starting fires and attacking civilians as well as the security forces.

Yet villagers fleeing the violence say rape is a routine weapon in the military's armoury, with the UN now deliberating whether the violence amounts to genocide.

One 20-year-old refugee, who wanted to be known only as Ms Parvin, has been rejected by her in-laws after soldiers beheaded her husband and raped her while she was five months pregnant.

"They beat me unconscious," she said.

"I woke up to an empty village and my in-laws searching for me. I was lying naked on the floor of their house."

The last thing Ms Parvin's mother-in-law did for her was help her wash after the rape.

"They told me they did not want to take responsibility for me and rejected me."

Now Parvin lives alone in a bamboo house, terrified of men. "I can never get married again now that I was raped. I have no choice but to raise my baby alone," she said. - REUTERS

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