This policy brief, a joint publication by Centre for Peace and Justice, Brac University (CPJ) and The Asia Foundation, conveys findings from a rapid analysis to learn community perspectives on the intersection of marriage and social justice in the camps of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The study’s themes, research questions, and this report were developed in close coordination with CPJ’s Rohingya research volunteer team.
Background of Research
Though Rohingya have given dowries and practiced polygamy and child marriage since ancestral times, they view these as causing new harms and pressures in displacement. These shifts are prompting critical reflection and concern. The community feedback summarized in this policy brief reveals that camp residents want greater involvement of humanitarian and government actors to address social justice problems associated with marital practices. Doing so would be an opportunity to proactively respond to community concerns and engage community leaders for meaningful action.
CPJ receives many requests from refugees who want training on peace, social justice, and human rights topics, seen as key to community development and progress, as well as on women’s empowerment. The Rohingya crisis has meant that some Rohingya, such as youth who participate in camp-based civil society groups, have been exposed to human rights discourse for the first time. A rights-based approach to raising awareness on intra-communal social justice issues such as exploitative marital practices can be broached initially with those community representatives who already observe the need for internal social transformation. While changing these practices is a long-term process that must be driven from within the community, there are immediate justice, security and safety implications that could be discussed and addressed in the nearer term.
The December 2020 rapid analysis sought to elicit understanding of camp residents’ views on the intersection of marriage and social justice in Rohingya camps, and builds upon CPJ’s ongoing observations from frequent discussions with camp residents on these topics. The analysis included several research components listed below. CPJ’s Rohingya research volunteers designed a questionnaire to elicit views from within their community on dowries, polygamy, and child marriage, as well as the impacts of these practices on domestic violence. The researchers also collected community members’ recommendations about how these concerns should be addressed, and analysed differing perceptions amongst gender, age and socioeconomic groups. The analysis was carried out in thirteen of the 34 camps in which Rohingya refugees reside in Cox’s Bazar District.
- The dowry system, polygamy, and child marriage have been practiced by Rohingya in the past, and continue to be practiced in the camps. Despite their continuation, many camp residents are concerned about these practices.
- While baselines from Myanmar are not readily available to track changes, respondents said that dowry, polygamy, and child marriage are practiced in increasingly harmful ways due to insecurity, loss of livelihoods, lack of education, and social pressures in the camps.
- Respondents said they want camp authorities and the Bangladesh government to address the intersecting challenges of dowry, polygamy and child marriage.
- Respondents also said they want more support from NGOs for awareness and mitigation. However, they feel that their concerns around marriage and justice are not well understood or responded to humanitarian actors.
Partners: UK Aid, The Asia Foundation
Published: March 2021
Jessica Olney, Lead Researcher
Azizul Hoque, Research Associate