25 December 2023
The Rohingya girl from Myanmar wanted to do anything she could to provide some money for her parents and three younger siblings. They needed food.
The 14-year-old and her family are members of the Muslim minority in Myanmar. The group is always in danger of attack by government forces and others there.
Last year, the girl, M, agreed to marry a man in Malaysia who promised to send about $4,000 to her family.
She and all the girls in this report are identified by only the first letter of their names for their safety.
M told the Associated Press she was not ready for marriage. But she had an urgent need to help her family.
Now, a year later in Kuala Lumpur, her 35-year-old husband rapes her almost every night.
M's experience is not unusual, the AP reports.
Many underage girls are now in Malaysia living in forced marriages to older men.
The girls say conditions for Rohingya in Myanmar and refugee camps in Bangladesh were very bad. Soldiers and others were raping and killing people. Others had their homes burned and property stolen. Malaysia seemed like a possibility for a safer life.
The AP interviewed 13 Rohingya for the report. All had arrived in Malaysia since 2022. The youngest girl was 13. They all say they feel like hostages. They are rarely permitted outside their homes. They say they are not prepared to be mothers. About half are pregnant and some have children already.
The path to flee the refugee camps or Myanmar is dangerous. Some try crossing the Andaman Sea by boat although many die on the long trip. The United Nations said most Rohingya who survived the crossing this year were women and children.
The people who take the girls on dangerous trips to Malaysia are called traffickers. The girls are crowded onto boats and vehicles for the trip. There is little food. The traffickers also rape and beat the girls.
When M arrived in Malaysia, the man she was to marry called for the ceremony to take place at once. M was still bleeding from the rapes she suffered on her journey. A person who helps the Rohingya girls took her to a hospital for care.
When M got home, she found out the man who was now her husband already had a wife and two children. M does not tell her parents what happened to her. She thinks it might cause her husband to stop sending monthly payments to her family.
Pain and unwanted pregnancy
Another girl, D, is in the same situation. She is 13. She plays with a little toy whale as she talks. She wants to play outside or visit a market nearby. But, her husband does not permit her to leave the home. She is forced to have sex every day. She does not want a baby, but she knows there is a good chance she will get pregnant.
"I want to run," D said.
R is 16. She has a newborn. She is one of several girls in a building filled with child brides who now have their own children. You can hear the babies crying.
She said life as a refugee in Bangladesh was difficult. But, as one of 11 children in her family, she was never lonely there. She had no one in Malaysia except her husband. She would be alone all day while he was at work.
R gave birth recently. "When I saw my baby's face, I was happy, because now I have a friend," she told the AP.
However, being a mother is not easy. She said she does not know how to be a mother.
"I miss my mom," she said. "I want my parents."
S is pregnant and homeless. Her Malaysian husband forced her to leave when he found out she was pregnant. Without a job, S walks the streets of Kuala Lumpur asking strangers for money.
"I once dreamed of having a happy family," S says. "I don't dream much anymore."
I'm Dan Friedell. And I'm Caty Weaver.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by the Associated Press.
Words in This Story
bride –n. a word for the female in a traditional marriage