Fleeing the brutal military crackdown, Rohingya women in Bangladesh's Cox Bazaar are being sold as sex slaves, according to testimonies by the victims and advocacy groups in the region, Al Jazeera reported.
UN Warns About Grim Situation of Women in Conflict Regions
Fifteen-year-old Khartoun (name changed) told Al Jazeera that she was sold into sex slavery on the pretext of finding a husband, soon after she arrived to Cox Bazaar, the border town in Bangladesh, in a bid to flee violence in the Rakhine state.
Khartoun was alone, as her family including her mother, father and sister were killed by a mortar shell fired by the military in Myanmar and after she arrived the beach town of Cox Bazaar, two women approached her telling her they could help her.
"They told me if I went with them they would look after me and help me find a husband," Khartoun told Al Jazeera.
The Rohingya woman was locked up for nearly three weeks and later sold to a Bangldeshi man, who raped her and sexually abused her for 12 days, she told Al Jazeera.
"He said 'I will choke you, I will stab you. I will kill you … Do you want to be killed the way the military kill people in Myanmar? I won't let you go,'" she said.
Khartoun was later returned to the women who sold her and she's now currently living in the Kutupalong refugee camp.
Olivia Headon, Information Officer of Emergencies for the International Organisation for Migration, told Al Jazeera, that the situation is grim and required urgent attention.
"There's been recruiters here in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, previous to this influx and we know they are getting more business," she told Al Jazeera. "And we know that new criminal networks have kicked into action."
A local aid agency in the region also said the girls as young as 13 were being abducted that has seen a surge in trafficking after over 600,000 Rohingyas have fled the crackdown in Myanmar.
The news also comes at a time when the world marked the "International Day for the Abolition of Slavery" on Saturday. According to the International Labor Organization, ILO, over 40 million people across the world are victims of modern slavery, and "women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labour, accounting for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors," the UN website noted.
Last week, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive director of UN Women, warned about the violence endured by women in conflict regions.
Mlambo-Ngcuka said women in conflict zones are constantly at risk as they are exposed to "new types of violence and torture, worse than anything we’ve ever seen before."
"The situation, even if there is not violence, is complex, [because] there are a lot of unaccompanied children, and the girls among those children are destined to be exposed to violence. It has been going on for such a long time and it is not abating yet. We need sustained attention and we need to mobilize more resources in order to help the government in Bangladesh," the UN diplomat added.