Myanmar birth control hurts Muslims, says rights body

Bangkok, May 28 (IANS) Myanmar should publicly revoke a discriminatory population control regulation that restricts Rohingya Muslims to having two children, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

Implementation of this policy is consistent with the wider persecution of the largely stateless Rohingya, violating international human rights protections, and endangering women's physical and mental health, it said.

The Arakan State spokesperson, Win Myaing, said May 26 that authorities had reaffirmed a 2005 regulation for Rohingya Muslims in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships in Arakan State along the Bangladesh border.

The discriminatory two-child rule has been enforced alongside regulations that require Rohingya couples seeking to marry to obtain permission from the authorities by paying hefty bribes.

Couples often have to wait for extended periods, at times as long as two years, before receiving permission. Officials have also forced many women to undergo pregnancy tests as part of the marriage application process.

"Implementation of this callous and cruel two-child policy against the Rohingya is another example of the systematic and wide ranging persecution of this group, who have recently been the target of an ethnic cleansing campaign," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"President Thein Sein says he is against discrimination. If so, he should quickly declare an end to these coercive family restrictions and other discriminatory policies against the Rohingya."

To avoid paying fines or being arrested, Rohingya women who became pregnant before getting official approval to marry or after having two children resort to unsafe and illegal abortions, Human Rights Watch said.

The 800,000 to one million Rohingya in Myanmar are particularly vulnerable to government abuse because most are denied citizenship under a 1982 citizenship law.