NEW YORK, NY – In response to first-hand accounts by Rohingya women and girls fleeing Myanmar, and to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit today with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Women’s Refugee Commission’s Executive Director Sarah Costa issued the following statement:
“The near daily reports out of Myanmar, and along the Rohingya escape route to Bangladesh, are horrific. Rohingya women are sharing nightmarish stories of being gang-raped while their babies are thrown into fires. Others are now reporting being forced into prostitution.
“The reports that continue to surface about the unimaginable suffering that Rohingya women and girls are enduring must serve as a call to action for the international community to take every possible measure to ensure that they are safe and have access to essential services as refugees in Bangladesh.
“While many of us who work in women’s rights and advocacy hope that Aung San Suu Kyi does speak out against the atrocities, our focus right now as humanitarians must be to see that Rohingya women and girls have access to all the protection and services they need to recover and heal.
“Specifically, when women and girls arrive in Bangladesh, they must be consulted and engaged as partners in the design and implementation of aid programs. Services for survivors of acts of gender-based violence such as rape, sexual assault, and trafficking must be prioritized, as must life-saving reproductive health care services.
“And, efforts to mitigate the risks of violence against women and girls must also be integrated into every area of humanitarian work. Particular efforts should be made to develop safe livelihood opportunities for women and girls who may be at risk of sexual exploitation or forced prostitution.
“While we continue to urge Aung Sun Suu Kyi to stand up for the Rohingya – and in particular, the women – and help them safely return home and rebuild their lives, for now it is up to the international community to step up. Having survived against all odds to reach Bangladesh, we cannot let Rohingya women and girls down now.”