Myanmar has played host to an array of atrocities in recent times, specifically the genocidal attacks against the Rohingya ethnic group. So often, rape is utilised as a tool of genocide. In this case, the Myanmar racial genocide has led to the rape of thousands of Rohingya women. 9 months has passed, and a lot has changed, but these women are still deeply affected by these attacks, most visibly in the form of unwanted pregnancies. Over 24,000 births are expected to be a direct result, creating an unmanageable influx of infants within the community. However, these infants will predominantly be born into overcrowded refugee camps, where resources are already strained and medical assistance is spread thin. Consequently, this is expected to draw unwanted attention to rape victims, as their suffering begins to impede heavily on camp-based resources.
These military attacks on Rohingyan women have drawn attention from numerous organisations, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) committee. Human Rights Watch has noted the various gendered attacks, publishing last week that; following a “CEDAW committee request… numerous reports [surfaced] of Myanmar army-led attacks on Rohingya Muslims, including mass killings, rape and other sexual violence, and widespread arson in hundreds of predominantly Rohingya villages.” These attacks further highlight the genocidal intentions of the Myanmar military forces.
Reuters recently reported that “Many of the women and girls raped in 2017 are due to give birth in the next few weeks, during the monsoon season, and we are concerned that many will not be able to access medical care to give birth safely.” Despite the ongoing attempts of the United Nations to secure funding to support the medical and human needs within these camps, there has been minimal success, with only 9% of proposed funding gained. Unfortunately, this rumoured influx of pregnancies has been confirmed by Save the Children spokesperson Daphnee Cook, where she expressed, “Based on U.N. reports and testimonies from Rohingya women who told our staff of rape and sexual violence in Myanmar, we do sadly expect the number of babies born as a result of unwarranted pregnancies to increase in the coming months.”
However, this is not the first time women have been mass raped in a racial conflict. This act has become an increasingly normalised tool of war, particularly within genocidal-oriented causes. Rape is employed as a display of masculinity or glorification amongst militants, but also for its effect on the victims. Rape is viewed as a genocidal act, alongside “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part ; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group,” as stated within the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Rape coincides with conditions which are deemed an intentional strategy in causing the gradual elimination of group of people. Often genocidal rape victims, like other rape victims, are left psychologically and physically affected by their attackers. In many cases, Rohingya women, much like the Rwandans and Bosnians before them, become withdrawn and traumatised. This is only further enhanced by the current struggles with which they are faced, such as their displacement, marginalisation or their newly enforced refugee camp lifestyle. Furthermore, due to their harsh living arrangements following these attacks, the women are often unable to seek the mental health support required to comprehend. Consequently, this often leaves victims in a constant state of panicked trauma, unable to move past their previous attacks, placing an extensive strain on their current or future ability to sustain a healthy relationship on any physical level. This results in a long term genocide, through the heavily reduced number of women from the ethnic group either physically unable to reproduce or too emotionally and psychologically impacted to be able to move forward to further reproduce.
The Myanmar Military rape tactics have left a long-term mark on the Rohingyan people. The immediate issues we will come to see from these attacks include the impeding influx of births in Rohingya occupied camps, specifically within the Bangladesh region. This will cause food and medical shortages, while placing further strain on community cooperation within the camps, leaving these women and their subsequent dependents open to further hate, trauma and attacks. However, the long-term effects of the 2017 attacks are expected to cause a long-term genocidal battle, regardless of further genocidal attempts within Myanmar. While these pregnancies may soon be over, the children will act as a permanent reminder within the communities of the military’s rape attacks and a trigger for long-term psychological struggles within the Rohingya people as they are forced to come to terms with their victimisation.