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The Right To Life: The Brutal Treatment Of Rohingyas In Myanmar

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By Karthik Ganesh:

As I set down to type this article after having a bath and performing my daily prayers like a chaste Tamil Brahmin, I begin to wonder how my religious practices have played a pivotal role in shaping my identity in the society. Identity, an action that is conscious by itself, paves way for a human being to seek recognition for his deeds and gives him the integral assurance of his contribution to the society. The value of identity often comes with purpose of life and is such a crucial affair that it mustn’t be rushed into.

But, alarmingly in the modern day world, identity has taken a backseat for Rohingyas: a 750,000 strong group of Bengali Muslims who migrated to Western Myanmar in 1948. Rohingyas have been stripped of their identity and have been declared stateless by an official statement of the Myanmar Government under the ambit of a 1982 rule. This ruling has created an outright disparity against the Rohingyas in Myanmar with them being prevented from travelling freely inside the country, serving in state positions of work and attending higher education institutions. There have also been accounts of them being subjected to violence and public malevolence.

The Myanmar Government has justified their stand by following the principle of jus sanguinis which in the essence claims that citizenship is not determined by place of birth but by having one or both parent who are citizens of the nation. They went to proclaim that Rohingyas are natural residents of Bangladesh who fled from their nation. Instead of rushing to the aid of Rohingyas, the Bangladeshi Government issued an official statement declaring that Rohingyas were never the residents of their nation. And in this stalemate policy war of giving recognition between two nations, Rohingyas have borne the back brunt of the blame game and are literally living an identity less life.

Even though the world has progressed in terms of technology it has definitely regressed in giving importance to the quality of life. The basic requirements to be fulfilled by any government are food, clothing and shelter. We are hardly ever disconcerted by the fact of living an identity less life. Identity is the basic human right of any being in a society with the adherence to its norms and conditions. Rohingyas are innocent souls living in a prison that stretches from Bangladesh to Myanmar where they scrounge for basic necessities of life and are enforced to physical violence for no apparent fault of theirs.

The onus is on the Government to understand the importance of quality of life of people for the nation’s overall development. They have the moral obligation of providing the basic demand of providing proper recognition and identity to a group of people who have been born and brought up there and have contributed with their work to the nation’s economy. An old saying goes as “Every cloud has a silver lining”. Let us hope that this dark cloud cast on Rohingyas soon showers down as the pleasant hope-filled droplets of rain.

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  1. V.Govindarajan

    Hi,

    Such issues do prevail in many parts of the World. I agree with you that living in a stateless / identity less situation is terrible to say the least. However if you trace back the origin everything starts with some dispute within the society causing one to migrate from one place to another.

    Take the recent example of the Hindus from Pakistan coming into India seeking asylum. We can not accept them. But they get into India with tourist visa & do not go back. They hid themselves from the police by moving around he country. Over a period of time the numbers grow they end up stateless.

    You have such scenarios like South Americans moving into US, east European citizens moving to UK, Germany etc. Exodus of people from Sri Lanka into Tamil Nadu, Australia etc. also falls under this.

    When the issue starts, it is emotional. But the focus shifts as time moves on & some other issue crops up & these people get forgotten.

  2. R.Ganesh

    Karthik,

    We are moved by the plight of Rohingyas. Have we ever thought of the plight of Kashmiri Hindus rather Pandits being stateless in own country and state. There are thousands who have fled their homes in search of a habitat. Terrorism is definitely not the answer to the problem. Yes the Rohingyas need resettlement . It needs human guts to confront the problem and humanity in equal doses. Time has the answer.

    R.Ganesh

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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