Home News Burma Rohingya Muslim Minority Face Marriage Restrictions

Rohingya Muslim Minority Face Marriage Restrictions

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Download Burma’s President Thein Sein has recently pledged to consider new rights for Burma’s stateless Rohingya minority.

The United Nations regards them as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.

Government policy restricts the number of Rohingya marriages. Couples have to get permission from their local authority to get married.

Failure to get a permit could result in a lengthy jail sentence.

Banyol Kong Janoi travels to a Rohingya community in Bu Thee Tuang, in the northern part of Rakhine State.

25-year old Kyaw Kyaw Oo is taking me to a safe place.

He doesn’t want to meet me in public. For the interview, we have to travel about a kilometre from the capital to reach the Rohingya community.

He doesn’t want to use his real name for security reasons.

He’s a Rohingya and he has been waiting for permission to marry his girlfriend.

“I graduated three years ago and I applied for permission to get married two years ago. I heard that if you pay a large amount of money, you can get permission immediately."

He had to give around 200 US dollar to the officials.

In 1994, the Burmese government issued the first local order restricting the marriage of Rohingya.

Rohingya couples who get married without a permit could go to jail.

“One of my friends applied for the marriage permit. His documents were approved, but he didn’t have any money to pay the officials. So he couldn’t have his documents and continue the marriage. And after that, the authorities came to arrest him and he was put in jail for 7 years.”

According to the NGO Arakan Project, which records human rights abuses against the Rohingya, marriage permits are only granted after paying high bribes and after long delays.

It can take two years or more to get approval.

Chris Lewa from Arkan Project explains why the government introduced this restriction.

“For me it’s very clear that this is a tactic from the government to control the population. In one parliamentary session, the Ministry of Immigration explained that preventing marriages was a way to reduce population.”

And as a result, there are many cases of illegal marriages among the Rohingya.

"We find many young couples run to Bangladesh because they can’t marry in  Burma and their parents can’t pay the fee. In other cases, the couples would continue their relationship without permit. And when the girl becomes pregnant, she has to abort the baby because it’s a living proof that they had an illegal marriage. A couple who gets married without permit can go to jail for up to 5 years, but this goes mostly for the men.”

And even when they get married, Rohingya parents have to sign an agreement not to have more than two children.

The Arakan Project says the government punishes Rohingya children by putting them on a ‘black list’ if their parents don’t have a marriage permit.

The government announced that about 7,000 Rohingya children born this year are unregistered.

In total, it’s estimated that there are around 40,000 unregistered children.

"The government has not issued the birth certificate for children since the mid 90s. This means, it will be difficult to prove that he was born in the country. If a child is not registered, he can never get a card, he can’t travel, and can’t go to school. When he becomes an adult, he can’t marry because he has no document.

In a recent letter to the United Nations, President Thein Sein said that the Burmese government was prepared to address the sensitive issue of Rohingya citizenship.

He also promised to look at other issues such as work permits and granting freedom of movement for the Rohingya. However, he didn’t say anything about the marriage restrictions.

The Arakan Project is urging the government to tackle this issue.

"If a parent wants to declare their child, well they know that they can go to jail for illegal marriage. So they never declare this to the authorities. They keep the children in hide outs or send them out of the country. We’ve heard stories of Rohingya children being left out in Bangladesh refugee camps. It’s a very sad situation for the children and the mothers. This marriage issue is a gross human rights abuse against the population.”


Last Updated ( Sunday, 25 November 2012 13:30 )  

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