Rohingya face population control pressure on both sides of the border

Michael Cook
December 6, 2017
Reproduced with Permission
Demography is Destiny

Over 600,000 Rohingya refugees crossed the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh since the end of August -- joining the 200,000 who were already there. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, many have reported that their villages were razed by Myanmar troops and local militias. There are stories of parents or relatives who were killed in front of their children and women and girls who have been raped or brutalized. In the camps just over the border in Bangladesh, the refugees live in makeshift shelters with poor hygiene and water shortages.

One strand in the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar government was population control. Since 2005, the government tried to enforce a two-child policy . Back in 2015, Physicians for Human Rights complained that Millennium Development Goals were being used by the government to force the Rohingya to have fewer children.

And now, in the squalid camps in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh government is trying to sell the same message -- with no more luck than their Myanmar counterparts. Public health official Dr Pintu Bhattacharya told Australia's ABC that a Bangladeshi incentive scheme should be extended to the refugees. They are paid a small amount for voluntary sterilisation. "If we do not have this program among refugees then we will have more pregnancies, more newborns and more population," he says.

Rohingya families are large and some men have several wives. Most couples have six or seven children and family planning workers have met families with 19 children. Many told AFP that a large family will help them survive in the camps. Many also believe that contraception is against Islam.

In the light of the fact that the Myanmar government weaponised contraception to control the Rohingya, perhaps it is understandable that these desperate refugees believe that large families represent freedom.