Male Rohingya rape victims ‘too ashamed’ to come forward

Rights groups and NGOs say male rape victims are too ashamed to talk about their ordeal and they have been largely overlooked.

Some Rohingya men and boys who escaped Myanmar‘s military campaign two years ago have said they were sexually abused by security forces.

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslim minority fled to Bangladesh in the wake of the brutal campaign led by Myanmar military in August 2017.

Since then many of them, who live in Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, have suffered in silence, unable to share their trauma, because of extreme shame and stigma.

“They took me into an open space in a valley nearby and beat me up badly. Then I was raped, just like they would rape a woman, they kept me there till 4 in the morning,” a 41-year-old Rohingya told Al Jazeera.

“The very thought of this brutal experience makes me go into severe depression, I feel so traumatised. I go through much mental anguish and pain most of the time. It’s unbearable,” he added.

Research by the US-based Women’s Refugee Commission in Myanmar also indicates, “there was systematic targeted premeditated sexual violence committed against men and boys, while they were in Myanmar.”

A 45-year-old man said he was sexually assaulted by Myanmar troops in 2006, since then he has also suffered from chronic depression.

“They strip me naked and first penetrated me with a stick,” the victim told Al Jazeera.

“[After that] one of the border policemen raped me, later they sent me to a jail.”

“Even if there is justice, my trauma will never end, only my death will relieve me from this pain. Just a few days ago a friend of mine with a similar experience died,” he added.

Camp authorities said they were not aware of any victims, but it is possible that such incidents could have taken place during the conflict in Myanmar.

It is not clear how widespread the problem is, but last year United Nations published a research looking at how many Rohingya men and boys were victims of sexual abuse.

“The data available is not huge, but… 14.3 percent of respondents under the [UN] study … reported being victims of sexual violence, which is a fairly stark finding,” International Organization of Migration spokesman George McLeod told Al Jazeera.

The report also indicated that from the 89 Rohingya men and adolescent boys that were interviewed, one-third personally knew a Rohingya man or boy who had directly experienced conflict-related sexual violence.

Rights activists have called for the International Criminal Court to investigate allegations of sexual abuse against Rohingya, which the UN considers one the most prosecuted communities in the world.