Tuesday, August 8, 2017

BOU & Child Brides

I have interviewed Mahi Ramakrishnan who just completed a documentary on child brides among the Rohingya refugees. Get theSun today ( Wednesday Aug 9)  Here is the full story 

Headline: Innoncence Lost
By Bissme S

Malaysian journalist Mahi Ramakrishnan has, in the past two years, highlighted the plight of the Rohingyas from Myanmar who were forced to flee their homeland due to intense civil unrest and ethnic
oppression, and ended up as refugees on foreign shores.
Her two documentaries, Seeds of Hatred (2015) and Bodies for Sale (2016), explored the issues faced by these refugees both in Myanmar and in their new ‘homes’. 

This year, Mahi – who had worked for Time magazine and AlJazeera – has come out with BOU a documentary that tackles the heart-rending subject of child brides among the Rohingya refugees.  
“Bou means bride in the Rohingya language,” says Mahi, who took two years to complete the documentary.
“Some Rohingya men will hire traffickers to find child brides for them, and these traffickers will go back to Myanmar and convince parents to give up their daughters, [promising them] a better life in a foreign land.”
Unfortunately, a better life is the last thing these young brides will find. The traffickers torture them sexually and physically, before selling them to Rohingya men for RM7,000 each. The traffickers always target girls from the ages of 11 to 16. 

For BOU, Mahi interviewed three child brides, two men who had taken child brides as their wives, and also a trafficker, to get different sides to the story.  The stories the child brides told her were of unimaginable horrors.The first girl she interviewed
became a child bride at the age 11.
“Some 60 traffickers had raped her before she was sold to a Rohingya man to be his wife,” says Mahi. “Her nightmare did not end there. Her husband kept abusing her. She had no choicebut to run away from [him].” 
The second child bride was abused by her husband each time she asked for money to buy milk for their only child, while the third was abandoned by her husband soon after giving birth to their first child.  
“These women are illiterate,” says Mahi.
“They can’t speak any other language except for their mother tongue. So they are in a vulnerable position, and have a tough time surviving.”
She added that she also interviewed two men with child brides to hear their side of the story and to know what motivated them to get child brides. 
“These men believe they are doing a favour to these girls because they are rescuing them from the misery in their home country and giving them a better life.”
She also talked to a trafficker to gain an insight on the trade. Mahi says while the authorities have taken strict measures to control the refugee problem, traffickers are getting more creative. She claims they are using flights from Bangladesh to bring child brides into the country. And they are charging more for each bride, as much as RM16,000 per bride.
While some quarters argue that child marriages should be legalised to reduce unwanted pregnancies among the youth, Mahi disagrees.
“If you want young people to behave responsibly towards sex, marriage is not the answer. Society, parents, and schools should take the trouble to teach youngsters about sex, and about the responsibilities involved.”
BOU will be shown this Sunday at The Refugee Fest:Inclusion for a Better Worldevent, which takes place at Black Box, Publika, in Kuala Lumpur, from tomorrow till Sunday. 

The Refugee Fest, which premiered last year, is Mahi’s brainchild. During this four-day event, there will be activities geared to
help members of the public better understand the plight of refugees.
Among the activities are a theatre performance by a group of Syrian children, and a poetry recital by refugees in their own language.
“These poems will be translated in English,” says Mahi, adding that the festival will give refugees “a platform to channel their grievances, their disappointments, and their dreams.”
“This festival is a place where their voice will be heard.”
As to calls for nations to close their borders to refugees, including from US President Donald Trump, Mahi says:  

“Trump has no authority to turn his back on refugees. What irks me is when a person who has power, wealth and fame migrates to our country,it is perfectly fine and nobody has issue with that. But these refugees have no choice. They have to abandon their homeland. If they continue living in their homeland, they would end up dead.   Frankly speaking, we need to remove the labels we have attached to [people], and look at these refugees as human beings who are fleeing prosecution. And they need our help."

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