“Despite recent reform efforts in Myanmar, the government has reaffirmed its deeply discriminatory policies against the Rohingya, and the children bear the brunt of this,” Chris Lewa, director of The Arakan Project and author of the report, told IRIN before a session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva on 19 January.
These include the requirement of government authorization for marriage and a “two-child policy”. These restrictions have made children “evidence” of unregistered marriages, an act punishable with up to 10 years in prison, while third and fourth children who are unregistered are essentially “blacklisted” for life – unable to travel, attend school or marry.
Under Myanmar’s 1982 citizenship law, Rohingya children – both registered and unregistered – are stateless and hence, face limited access to food and healthcare, leaving them susceptible to preventable diseases and malnutrition. Many are prevented from attending school and used for forced labour, contributing to a Rohingya illiteracy rate of 80 percent. More than 60 percent of children aged between five and 17 have never enrolled in school, the report said.