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combating statelessness for Rohingya refugees
The Muslim Rohingya minority found in Myanmar have been systematically stripped of citizenship in bureaucratic ways, which has led to combating statelessness for Rohingya refugees.

In 1982, the ruling military junta put in place discriminatory citizenship laws in Myanmar. The law favors the country’s “national races” and excludes the Muslim Rohingya and several other ethnic minorities, automatically granting full citizenship to these “national races.” The national races include groups that were present in Myanmar before the British conquest in 1824.

Removing Rohingya Rights

Throughout past years in Myanmar, each form of ID was declared invalid and then taken from the Rohingya, replaced with a card that indicated fewer rights. The “white cards,” created in 1982, were temporary documents that left the Rohingya in legal limbo.

Currently, the authorities urge the Rohingya to apply for a “national verification card.” The new identification card is highly criticized because of the multistep citizenship process associated with the cards. Many Rohingya, in addition, don’t feel confident that they would have “full” citizenship or basic rights with the new cards.

Nurul Hoque and his family are Rohingya refugees that are fearful of these new cards. He holds on to his grandfather’s old and frail identity card from Myanmar from before the implementation of the discriminatory citizenship laws. This old document is a reminder of a life that he and his family had left behind in Myanmar.

Nick Cheesman, a political scientist at Australian International University, describes to DW that the deprivation of citizenship among Rohingya was not a result of the 1982 law but more an inaccurate implementation of the law.

United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees and Combating Statelessness

In combating statelessness for Rohingya refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) has declared a worldwide effort to end statelessness by 2024. Around 10 million people in the world are denied citizenship, which causes many obstacles in obtaining basic rights.

To overcome statelessness, the UNHCR works with many other organizations to assemble and endorse more compelling solutions. It collaborates with other international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, civil society groups, national human rights institutions and academic and legal associations. The United Nations General Assembly granted, through a series of resolutions in 1995, the UNHCR the formal approval to combat statelessness through identification, prevention, reduction and protection of stateless individuals.

The UNHCR believes that citizenship, or some structure of documented status within a state, is required for basic rights to be achieved. This statelessness determination status, though, is to give individuals an interim way to attain basic rights. The final goal is to end statelessness altogether.

United States Assistance to Myanmar

The United States humanitarian policy in Myanmar has been guided by the importance of protection of basic rights for refugees and asylum seekers. On September 20, 2017, the State Department allocated $28 million in humanitarian aid for displaced people in Bangladesh.

The overall objective for United States policy in Myanmar is to establish a democratically elected civilian government that recognizes human rights and civil liberties of all Myanmar citizens and residents, revealing another effort in combating statelessness for Rohingya refugees.

– Andrea Quade

Photo: Flickr

my body my rights
Amnesty International launched the “My Body, My Rights” campaign to address the sexual and reproductive rights that every person should be granted. It stresses the need for all individuals to have the power to make decisions about their own bodies and their own lives. It goes further to state that every government ought to safe guard these rights so everyone can live without fear of discrimination.

Part of the campaign lists the basic rights a person should have. The list includes:

· Make decisions about your own health
· Have access to information about health services
· Decide if and when you want children
· Choose if and when you want to marry
· Access to family planning (which includes contraception and legal abortions if justifiable)
· Live free from rape and violence

The security of sexual and reproductive rights is a fundamental problem in today’s world. According to Amnesty International, many people lack access to accurate information, sexual education and health services that they need in order to live a healthy life. For example, over 3,000 people each day are infected with HIV but of the 3,000, only 34 percent can answer basic questions about the disease and how to prevent it.

Those particularly affected by the failure to uphold sexual and reproductive rights are young women and girls. Specifically, females from poor and marginalized families often times fall victim to rights abuses. They are denied access to the health information and services they need because of discrimination. This reality can be seen in the fact that the leading cause of death in developing countries for girls 15 to 19 years old is pregnancy complications.

To demonstrate the pervasiveness of this issue, Amnesty International presents a series of little known but alarming realities. For example, more than 60 percent of teens in four sub-Saharan African countries do not know how to prevent pregnancy. Additionally, in 76 countries, sexual actions between people of the same sex are considered illegal. The problem is not limited to developing countries, as evidenced by the fact that about 83 percent of girls between the ages of 12 and 16 in the United State have experienced sexual harassment.

The campaign includes striking photos of body paintings done by Tokyo-based artist Hirkaru Cho. The 3-D paintings are meant to capture Amnesty International’s messages of violence against women, marriage equality and right to health services, including contraception.

One particularly impactful photo is of a person’s face broken in two and is meant to depict everyone’s right to: choose a partner and to be open about sexual orientation and gender identity. Another image shows a stack of books on a man’s back which is meant to represent everyone’s right to know and learn about one’s body, sexual health and relationships.

Amnesty International calls for an end to all policies, social norms and other barriers that prevent people from accessing the services and information they need to lead a healthy life. It asks people to take action by petitioning to global leaders and UN representatives to better address the sexual and reproductive rights of all people.

– Kathleen Egan

Sources: Amnesty International, Huffington Post, The Independent
Photo: Femsource