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For Women, Refuge Often Includes Rape

For Women, Refuge Often Includes Rape

A 13-year-old Sudanese girl, separated from her family, was raped last week in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Earlier this month in a Sudanese camp, a group of Eritrean women were kidnapped and tortured. At resettlement camps in the Benue State, a region of Nigeria, rapes have “become daily occurrences.”

For female refugees around the globe, rape is not only a cause for flight from their homes, but it is also becoming a consequence. After fleeing the trauma of war, millions of women reach the so-called “safe haven” of refugee camps only to be thrust into a dangerous world of sexual harassment, rapes and kidnappings. Already flooded with traumatic memories, many women must face new waves of trauma in the camps.

One woman, forced from her home by floods, and gang-raped in the Benue camp, says, “I am not the only one they have done this to, there are so many other girls; there are over 19 of us that have been raped in the last few days, but we are all hiding it because of the shame…we will not get help because we are helpless.”

80 percent of the world’s 42 million refugees are women. They must forage alone for food and firewood far from the camps, and trek long distances to washing areas. They often sleep in unprotected tents or under trees alongside male strangers. Everyday, female refugees risk their lives for their basic needs. Night patrol is rare, and women, wandering in complete darkness, can become moving targets for armed groups, male refugees or even camp guards.

The increased domestic abuse rates in refugee camps show that husbands, too, can double as dangerous perpetrators. Since so many cases go unreported, the number of victims is difficult to determine, but according to one British report, half of all female asylum seekers in the UK have been raped.

Although the sexual assaults defy reason, some speculate such attacks may result from deep-rooted tensions between the refugee and host communities. Hosts, often already impoverished, resent refugees, who strain local resources, intrude on land and receive exclusive aid from humanitarian organizations. Local men, threatened by the refugees’ intrusion on their homeland, may attack women in the camp to assert their authority. A Kenyan police officer said, “They rape our environment, and, you know, they get raped.” Sexual violence — a weapon of war — is also used to destabilize and terrorize refugee populations.

Inside the camp, the psychological strains of refugee life incite gender violence. Male refugees who were once productive members of society must depend on aid agencies for survival, and often channel their feelings of disempowerment into aggression.

Wouldn’t you think that those who have sacrificed everything to escape their national wars might be spared the global war on women?

Related post:

Syrian Refugee Camps Not Hell Precisely, But It’s as Close as It Gets

Rape of Women Used as a “Strategy” in Syrian War

Woman Burned Alive for Sorcery: Is Being Female a Death Sentence?

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Photo credit: Nicolas Rost

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5:35AM PDT on May 25, 2013


The behaviour of some men... Shameful. Wicked. Unforgivable.

2:59AM PST on Mar 2, 2013

If the leading countries in the world took interest in the situation for refugees, there would be decent living conditions and separate camps for women and men. Security would be tight and protection from any sort of abuse and aggression would be taken care of. We have to put pressure on the financially leading countries and those nations that have refugees among them. Any country that doesn't act and protect females and children from these brutal acts, should be treated like hostiles and, if necessary, forced to let aid groups intervene. Nothing will ever happen if we don't pressure for change. Women will always be treated as lower than street dirt, if we won't put all our strength and resources together and demand change!

6:24PM PST on Feb 25, 2013


12:49PM PST on Feb 25, 2013

heartbreaking Thanks for posting

8:09AM PST on Feb 25, 2013

there will always be abusers ready, willing and able to abuse. the chaos of a refugee camp is perfect for their evil ways. very sad. let's face it, safety of the minions is not important to those is power.

6:38AM PST on Feb 24, 2013

Where is the horror of the world? Why isn't there screaming and marches?

5:42AM PST on Feb 24, 2013

Emergency shelters were set up after Hurricane Katrina and even with FEMA oversight, women were brutalized at the emergency shelters and this has been largely played down by the media. My heart goes out to women everywhere hwo have been brutalized and on behalf of men who truly love women, i am so very sorry

7:44PM PST on Feb 23, 2013

It is heartbreaking!! So much helpless,fear and pain,without talking about the shame they feel! What kind of world we are living in??? When did raping and violating women and children come as part of the war??
Can anyone find some seriously helping act we can do?? Any petition with 100000 names on it?? Any ban??
As a mother of two daughters and grandma of one young girl...I feel deeply their pain!-and feel so helpless!

6:26PM PST on Feb 23, 2013

So sad! Thanks for posting!

6:35AM PST on Feb 23, 2013

Thank you.

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