Context Overview for Gender Equality among Rohingya
While there are variations based on levels of education, wealth, and urban vs rural context, gender segregation is generally common amongst the Muslim Rohingya population, closely connected to conservative cultural and religious practices such as the practice of purdah. Women and girls are generally expected to stay in the home and be close to their family, whereas men and boys are more present in the public sphere. When girls reach puberty, they are more likely to be separated from boys, and parents will mostly not send their young girls to educational or recreational activities unless they are segregated. The majority of girls do not attend school beyond grade 5 and those who do attend up to grade 5 are usually from higher income families. This is also against a backdrop where education beyond Grade 5 is not permitted for refugee children. In 2010, more than half of boys and girls age 10-15 in Rakhine State, Myanmar, are out of school, including 57% of girls and 49% of boys (an 8% gap). This is exacerbated by security concerns where women and girls are kept home to protect them from harassment and other forms of gender based violence or violent attacks. However, even before reaching puberty, there is gendered divisions among children - girls are oriented towards the home e.g., washing, cleaning and feeding backyard animals, whilst boys perform tasks such as fetching water. Boys are more likely to play and engage outside.
Marriage is very important for the Rohingya and for women it is often the only way they will achieve a sense of social and economic security given that they are discouraged from working. Upon marriage, a woman becomes the responsibility of the husband’s family; in addition to her husband, she becomes the responsibility of her mother-in-law who gives guidance on behaviour, childcare and other gendered tasks. The median age for women’s marriage in Rakhine State in 2016 was 20.7 years. There is evidence that child, early and forced marriage is commonplace among the Rohingya population9 and that both child marriage and polygamy has been increasing in recent years among Rohingya populations due to the scarcity of men and to economic difficulties which mean girls are forced into adult roles sooner. In addition, a UNHCR report from 2016 shows that more than half of Rohingya girls who have fled Myanmar since 2012, married prior to the age of 18. Polygamy and child marriage is not only an element of culture, but also as an adaptation for the lack of funds to pay for schooling. A 2015 gender analysis study, which included a focused group discussion and key informant interviews among the 3,000 Rohingya refugees who were then living in Cox’s Bazar’s official refugee camps, revealed that 94 per cent of women respondents reported that they did not make decisions about their current marriage, and that 45 per cent were married as children. The difficult circumstances in the camps may mean that parents push their daughters to get married earlier than they would have otherwise, because they cannot afford to provide for them. Even though Islamic law does not allow for dowry, it is common for the family of the bride to pay dowry to the husband’s family. Dowry is also practiced in the camps in Bangladesh, even though it is still illegal there.
The Gender Profile for the Rohingya Refugee Crisis Response in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, was prepared by the Inter-sector Gender in Humanitarian Action Working Group (GiHA WG) in Cox’s Bazar, co-led by UN Women and UNHCR with technical support from inter-agency Gender Capacity Adviser (GENCAP). The GiHA WG is comprised of sector gender focal points and gender advisers engaged in the response from across NGOs, INGOs, Red Cross/Red Crescent Society, and the UN. The purpose of the gender profile is to present a summary context overview gender analysis as well as key gender-related information on key needs, issues, gaps, response actions taken and recommended further actions within all sectors, sub-sectors, inter-sector working groups and cross-cutting coordination to ensure gender-responsive humanitarian actions in this crisis response. The profile was endorsed by the Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) in Cox’s Bazar on 3 December 2017 and is intended to guide the integration of gender equality and gender mainstreaming across the humanitarian programme cycle of the ISCG.