India, which supports hundred thousand refugees from Burma (also known as Myanmar) is urged to review its existing foreign policy for safeguarding the women asylum seekers in the country as ‘they are more vulnerable and are easy target to sexual assault and other forms of exploitations’.
A recent report on the plight of women refugees from the Chin province of Burma, who are taking shelter in New Delhi, also appealed to the Indian Union government to continue supporting the asylum seekers.
The report titled ‘Doke Kha Bon’, which was launched at Burma Centre Delhi (BCD) office at Vikaspuri of New Delhi on 14 October 2013, reveals that 4,000 Burmese refugee women, who are taking shelter in the national capital city, faces numerous problems. Officially released by Pu Kim, the founding member of BCD, the report is expected to increase awareness about the atrocities & abuses going on the Burmese refugee women in their present host country India.
“There are 8,306 Burmese refugees in Delhi as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in New Delhi reports, out of which 3,924 are women. Persecution due to minority ethnic race, religion and political opinion are cited as the main reasons for their seeking asylum in neighbouring countries. The most frequent complaints reported to UNHCR include difficulty in communicating with local health and education service providers and inaccessible public hospitals,” said the report.
Mr Kim pointed out that the refugee women from Chin have to struggle for basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter in the Indian capital city. In addition to this, they battle with constant fear of sexual assault and physical abuses, he added. Pann Nu Foundation (PNF) in collaboration with BCD has prepared the report with a number of case studies. The foundation interviewed 20 Chin refugee women in Delhi between January to April 2013, who had run away to India with hopes for a better life.
Most of the interviewed women refugees, who are residing in Janakpuri, Vikaspuri, Uttam Nagar, Dabri and Sitapuri areas of west Delhi, are ether widows or single mother and they shared their painful stories while living in Delhi as the refugees.
Dr Alana Golmei, founder president of Pann Nu Foundation expected that the report would draw the attention of the Indian Union government such that it adopt policies ‘to put a stop to all kinds of discrimination and harassment to the Chin women refugees in particular and marginalized women in general across New Delhi’.
Elaborating about the Chin women, who had arrived in India from their remote areas in Chin State of Burma, Dr Golmei described that they were dependent on Jhum (shifting) cultivation) or were otherwise living as daily wage earners. But due to the Burmese Army’s regular land confiscation practice, the village women have gradually lost their livelihood, she added.
“In addition to it, the continued harassment and tortures by the Burmese Army has emerged as one of the primary reasons to force them to flee their own country. Women and girls are compelled to serve the military personnel as their porters and labourers. They also face continuous sexual assaults by the Burmese Army,” said Dr Golmei.
But fleeing to India and particularly the capital city has not provided the refugee women, most of them are Christian, the solace. Life in Delhi seemingly turns another nightmare for these women refugees from Burma. In most of their statements, the refugee women revealed that they continued to live a fearful life due to the treatment meted out to them by the Indian locals.
“They alleged that they become victims of physical abuse, molestation, sexual assault and discriminations everywhere they go, be it at their rented apartments, workplaces, public spaces or even the roads for that matter. To add to their woes it is the trouble of finding jobs as they have to comply with the demands of the local employers,” stated the PNF founder president.
The refugee women have lamented that they donot see a better life in India. Moreover they cannot go back to Burma as they suspect that their land and properties might have been either confiscated or destroyed by the Burmese Army. Hence their hope rests on the resettlement in a third country, where they should get the opportunity to live a dignified life.
The report also urged the UNHCR and its implementing partners to ‘set up emergency helpline for women refugees in distress for timely intervention’ and make sure that the cases related to sexual assault and violence against women refugees are continuously followed up, the victims are given legal assistance and justice is ensured’.