What is it about?

Women fleeing Myanmar in 2015 were trapped on the Andaman Sea for months when States in the region closed off places of disembarkation. Among the horrors of starvation and unsanitary conditions experienced on the boats, they faced additional risks of sexual violence. These women fled from a situation in Myanmar that severely curtailed their rights, including gender violence that is being tried as genocide at the International Court of Justice, and were exposed to further violations while fleeing. Through interviews with survivors of the journey and those who assisted them, this article describes the experiences of these women at sea. It outlines the failure of States to apply customary principles of international law and related regional standards to protect these women. From a feminist legal theory perspective, it explores the reasons for these failures and recommends reforms that guarantee better protection at sea for women in the future.

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Why is it important?

Silence continues to shroud the gendered experience of women fleeing by sea. That is, despite international law which strongly prohibits sexual violence, such violence against displaced Rohingya women remains unaddressed, and continues unabated.


Legal reform and political commitment to recognize the specific and egregious experiences of displaced women fleeing sea can prevent continued violations. In drawing attention to the issue and explaining what can be done about it, this article seeks improvement in the lives of these women.

Natasha Yacoub

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Rights Adrift: Sexual Violence Against Rohingya Women on the Andaman Sea, Asia Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law, June 2021, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/15718158-22010006.
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