Bangladesh law minister Syed Anisul Haque announced on Thursday that the country would cease officiating marriages for Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority group that has been displaced from Myanmar due to persecution.
The marriage ban affects Rohingyas attempting to wed one another and those seeking unions with Bangladeshi nationals, the Malaysian Insider reports. Haque claimed that Rohingyas seek marriages in order to obtain Bangladeshi passports and even citizenship for those marrying country nationals, which the ban would prevent.
Marriage registrars face disciplinary action if they fail to comply, law ministry spokesman Abdullah Al Shahin said.
Lifestyle restrictions are nothing new for Rohingya Muslims, who the U.N. considers to be among the most persecuted minority groups in the world. Rohingyas are denied citizenship in Myanmar, and more than 100,000 have fled their homes in recent years to escape brutal attacks — often carried out by Buddhist extremists in the country.
Because they lack citizenship in Myanmar, Rohingyas are unable to move, marry or find jobs without permission from the government. Despite the restrictions on marriage, Rohingya couples are only allowed to live together if they are marriedand then are subject to a strict two-child policy. Bearing children out of wedlock is prohibited.
There are roughly 300,000 Rohingyas living in Bangladesh, though the countryrecognizes only about 30,000 who are eligible for food, housing and other basic aid provided by the U.N. Other Rohingya refugees are dispersed in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
“They live under open sky, with no support from the United Nations or the Bangladeshi government,” human rights activist and Rohingya refugee Nijam Mohammed told Al Jazeera. “People are dying every day, there is a lack of food, treatment and education. You can’t imagine how life is.”
Although the Rohingya say they originally come from western Myanmar, Buddhist extremists say they immigrated illegally from Bangladesh in the 1800s with British imperial troops. Bangladesh border guards regularly intercept Rohingyas attempting to cross the Myanmar border, though on either side Rohingyas riskdiscrimination, poor living conditions and even human trafficking.