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Honour in Transition: Changing gender norms among the Rohingya

 Category: Culture, History  Publisher: IOM  Published: 1 May 2020  Tags: CultureRohingyaRohingya Women |  Download


Humanitarian crises often exacerbate pre-existing gender inequalities and discriminations, which lead to different and often disproportionate risks, vulnerabilities and impacts on women and girls. Yet, these crises can disrupt gender inequalities and result in shifts in power relations. There has been a growing interest in social norms within development and humanitarian work in recent years, highlighting the importance of better understanding the impact of these norms on achieving various outcomes and on their usefulness as a potential site for development and humanitarian interventions. The transformative change processes of gender and social norms are therefore a key aspect, often overlooked, that contributes to human rights-based and effective humanitarian action. This paper seeks to map gendered social norms in the Rohingya refugee response in order to better inform future programming of the humanitarian community in Cox’s Bazar. With respect to gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, social and gender norms shape the realities, behaviours and lives of all Rohingya. Due to the lack of in-depth research on Rohingya culture as well as contemporary events that have affected socio-cultural dynamics, there is a poor understanding of how displacement, the context of the camps, and the current aid relief mechanisms are influencing their rapidly changing social landscape.1 The previous paper (January 2020) highlighted the rapid changes that their social structures underwent during the displacement process and the shift in the underlying norms and practices of these communal groups. However, it largely failed to explore how these events also impacted on gender norms related to women and girls. The gendered nature of the Rohingya refugee crisis is notable because of the high prevalence of gender- based violence against women and men, and the socially restrictive norms that limit women’s access to all public spheres. There is potential for better social norms and gender equality programming to address some of these issues. However, whether displacement and programming within the response is disrupting or reinforcing various practices, inequalities and beliefs, as well as the extent to which this may do so are complicated questions whose answers are ambiguous and varied.