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Leading obstetricians, gynecologists call on Canada to help Rohingya victims of rape

A group of Canadian doctors, lawyers and activists are calling on the Trudeau government to help 10s of thousands of rape victims in Bangladeshi refugee camps.

Human rights groups estimate 81,000 Rohingya women and girls are pregnant after being raped

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland meets with Médecins Sans Frontières volunteers at a Rohingya refugee camp at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh on May 4, 2018. (Chrystia Freeland/Twitter)

A group of Canadian doctors, lawyers and activists are calling on the Trudeau government to help 10s of thousands of rape victims in Bangladeshi refugee camps.

The girls and women were raped when soldiers in Myanmar forced more than 700,000 minority Muslim Rohingya to flee their homes.

Hundreds of Canadian obstetricians and gynaecologists gathered in Vancouver on Friday said that nine months after the August 2017 military crackdown, an estimated 81,000 Rohingya women and girls are now about to give birth in "unthinkable" conditions.

"Girls as young as 10 and 12 are now pregnant as a result of gang rape. They are severely traumatized both physically and emotionally, and they're not capable of caring for their babies," said Alleeya Khan, a professor of clinical medicine at McMaster University.

"These women are now giving birth in very, very desperate circumstances without water, without food or any health care."

'We look like hypocrites'

Groups like Save The Children and Human Rights Watch say they're anticipating that hundreds of babies could be abandoned or killed.

In April 2018, the United Nations added Myanmar's military to the list of armies known to commit brutal sexual violence in armed conflict.

In May, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland embarked on a four-day trip to Bangladesh, during which she visited Rohingya refugee camps.

Afterwards, she said she was "more convinced than ever of the necessity of a comprehensive international response to this tragedy."

But Khan said despite the international community's pledges, not enough is being done.

"The international community has visited, they're aware of the Bangladeshi camps, they are aware of what's happening, but there's very little action. We look like hypocrites when we go to the Holocaust memorials and say never again and yet it's unfolding in front of our eyes and we're sitting there mesmerized, not doing anything," she said. 

"So, we are asking Canada to lead."

The group is calling on Canada to introduce sanctions against Myanmar and encourage the international community to take action by leading diplomatically.

It's also demanding that the United Nations Security Council immediately refer the issue to the International Criminal Court.

$300M pledge not met

Bob Rae, Canada's special envoy to Myanmar, called on the government last month to set aside $600 million over the next four years to help the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims affected by the violence.

Freeland later announced during a news conference that Canada would contribute $300 million over the next three years, which will go toward emergency assistance and education and reproductive health programs.

The money is expected to be channelled through the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and various NGOs and will include a specific focus on helping women and girls.

Freeland has also said Canada should look into bringing Rohingya refugees here to reunify families. 

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