No register for marriage of Rohingya in Bangladesh

Chittagong, Bangladesh:  The marriage registration of Rohingya is not legal, even if the marriage of a Rohingya was registered in Bangladesh, it would have no legal validity, said Syed Anisul Haque, the minister of law told members of the media recently.“We have ordered marriage registrars not to officiate any union between Bangladeshi nationals and Rohingyas and also not to enlist marriage between Rohingyas themselves”.

The Inspector General of Registration (of Marriages) … issued an order prohibiting kazis (marriage registrars) from recording any marriage between Myanmar refugees and Bangladeshi citizens on July 10,” according to the spokesperson of Minister of Law.

“The government’s decision came amid growing incidence of marriage between Bangladeshis and Rohingyas, the Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Buddhist-majority Rakhine State, as they use the marriage certificate for citizenship and availing Bangladeshi passports.”

The Rohingya community are not willing to marry with other community, most of the Rohingya wish to marry their own community. The ban for marriage with Bangladeshi, is not effect to Rohingya, but it effect to Rohingya for not giving marriage registration within their community, said Hamid Husson ,a refugee watcher from Cox’s Bazar.

Observers are not surprised that the Rohingya community in Bangladesh has once again been subjected to a stringent administrative measure. However, the matter in question has given rise to doubt if enough thought had been given to the matter before this order was issued as it effectively curtails universally recognized fundamental right to marry and have a family, Professor C.R Abrar, the head of the International Relations and coordinates the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit of the University of Dhaka and the President of Odhikar stated in his opinion “Marriage ban on Rohingyas, Law ministry’s wrong diktat” in Bangladesh English newspaper “The dailystar”.

The professor raised some questions to examine the intent of the government’s decision.
Firstly, it acknowledges that until the new measure was put in place there was a degree of tolerance of the practice of Rohingyas marrying Bangladeshis and within their own community. Secondly, the recent decision not only banned registration of marriage between Rohingyas and Bangladeshis, it also made it illegal for the Rohingyas to marry each other. Thirdly, the new rule was triggered by the consideration that some Rohingyas were using marriage certificate to claim Bangladeshi citizenship and passports. Fourthly, it was given retrospective effect, meaning marriages so far registered stand void.

Analysts and refugee and rights activists were taken by surprise by this harsh measure.

A number of questions beg answers. Firstly, has the government taken into consideration what impact the retroactive nature of the edict will have on the couples that are already married; and more so, on their offspring? Secondly, whether it is prudent to expect that a generation of Rohingyas would remain unmarried and not have families when a major part of their life has been spent in a protracted refugee condition that has so far spanned more than two decades for many? Thirdly, what ramifications would this policy have on the Rohingyas, if and when they eventually return to Myanmar? Would not the absence of marriage documents make them face another round of difficulties with the Burmese authorities for settling divorce, inheritance and custody matters as well as to put their children to schools and securing work?

Fourthly, a no less important question in this regard is, if the existing laws in Bangladesh allow foreign nationals to acquire Bangladeshi citizenship through their spouses then under what power do the authorities want to make an exception to that law? Would not that tantamount to discrimination and breaching of the national law by the ministry of the law? Finally, if the Rohingyas’ alleged acts of acquiring of citizenship and passport are illegal under the existing law of the land, then should not the officials issuing such certificates of citizenship and passports be taken to task rather than clamping a blanket ban on marriages of the Rohingyas? Would not the latter be a case of throwing the baby with the bath water? The authorities perhaps are well aware that many Bangladeshis in irregular status in different parts of the world also marry nationals of those countries. Such marriages receive sanction of the law as international human rights laws oblige those countries to do so.

“Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family,” according to Article 16 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State, “stated its Article 16 (3).

“The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized,” according to Article 23 (2) of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and UDHR, Article 26 also states that “the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination, on any ground” including “national or social origin” and “birth or other status.”

It may therefore be argued that as a State Party to the above international treaties Bangladesh has a legal obligation to uphold the Rohingyas’ right to marriage and found family. Under existing provisions of national law, if such marriage gives the right to the concerned individuals to acquire citizenship and passports then those should be duly respected. If not, then those involved in abusing the system, including the issuing authority, be made accountable for their transgression. Misdemeanors of a few individuals should not be ground for denying registration of marriage to Rohingyas, C.R Abrar stated in his paper.

The law minister justified the decision on ground of compliance “with the official marriage registration system.” The minister stated that the “marriage of illegal immigrants including Rohingyas doesn’t fall in that jurisdiction.”

In this context one, would argue that if the existing national law such as the Marriage Registration Act of 1974 is not compatible with Bangladesh’s international obligation then Bangladesh is duty-bound to amend or nullify that law. It is hoped that the Ministry of Law will reconsider its position and rescind the flawed decree. Failure to do so will only erode Bangladesh’s image as a law-abiding nation that is respectful of international human rights principles, according to C.R Abrar opinion in “The daily star”.

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