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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 316-318

How social constructs take precedence over religious beliefs in Rohingya refugees

MBBS, Public Health Intern, UNHCR Bangladesh, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

Correspondence Address:
Ayat Ajaz Shah
Public Health Unit, UNHCR Bangladesh Sub-Office, Motel Road, 4700 Cox’s Bazar
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/INTV.INTV_21_19

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As a public health intern of UNHCR Bangladesh, I reflect on my learning from the story of 16-year-old Rohingya refugee, Husna,1 after she was sexually abused by a neighbour in the Rohingya refugee camp she resides in. Husna began to regularly visit a counselling centre which she found helpful, but she also said that her reliance on her faith of Islam had made the healing process easier. Taking note of this, in addition to other observations I had made during field visits, I was able to understand how religion plays a major role in the lives of the Rohingya people, and how they adopt practices in accordance with their interpretation of it. The example discussed in this personal reflection is that of Husna’s father, who maintained that although he knew it would be Islamically encouraged to engage in legal action against his daughter’s perpetrator (which would also promote his daughter’s safety and peace of mind), he feared that if word regarding her abuse became known to his community, his daughter’s future chances of receiving marriage proposals from potential suitors would be hampered. As per Rohingya culture, male members are responsible for making major decisions on behalf of their families. Husna’s father admitted that despite being a devout Muslim, he had certain reservations when it came to his family’s pride and social standing. Ultimately, I learned that the father was uncomfortable with following through with the legal process due to fears that Husna would not be desired as a spouse in the future. This exemplified that although religion does play an important role in the lives of the Rohingya people, cultural factors can cause social constructs to take precedence over religious beliefs.

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