In recent months, Rohingya Muslim refugee camps in Bangladesh have been preparing for increased childbirths following last year’s systematic rape and sexual violence by Burmese soldiers. Last week, the Associated Press followed up with several rape survivors regarding their pregnancies.

According to the AP, there have not been as many births or abandoned babies as had been expected — which has caused speculation among aid workers that women either obtained abortions or died from pregnancy or delivery complications. Unfortunately, obtaining accurate information is further made more difficult because of the pressure the women feel to hide or terminate their pregnancies:

For many of their mothers, the births have been tinged with fear — not only because the infants are reminders of the horrors they survived, but because their community often views rape as shameful, and bearing a baby conceived by Buddhists as sacrilege.

Theirs is a misery spoken of only in murmurs. Some ended their pregnancies early by taking cheap abortion pills available throughout the camps. Others gave birth to unloved babies; some agonized over whether to give them away. One woman was so worried about her neighbors discovering her pregnancy that she suffered silently through labor in her shelter, stuffing a scarf in her mouth to swallow her screams.

The women who spoke to the AP were identified only by their first initials for fear of any repercussions and include M, who gave birth to a baby boy who only painfully reminded her of the violence she experienced; D, T, and H, all of whom had abortions; and 13-year-old A, who gave her baby girl to a relief group within an hour of giving birth.

Sadly, many of the women revealed they felt angry at themselves for being raped, as well as unbearable shame. Such feelings were exacerbated by the reactions of others in their lives: At least one woman’s husband pulled away after finding out she had been raped and was pregnant, while other women revealed their marriage prospects were damaged once prospective suitors learned.

Read the full AP article here.

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