Happy New Year–Or Maybe Not…

In the wake of the ongoing massive human tragedy in Asia, it is often very difficult to differentiate among victims. When we hear these massive mortality numbers, it is difficult to critically analyze what is going on.
Yet, as in any tragedy, suffering is not distributed evenly. Indeed, it is the most vulnerable populations–i.e. women and children that often suffer the most. The AP reports today that the Sri Lankan government is currently investigating several cases of sexual assault and child abuse in the disaster zone.
Unfortunately, this problem is in no way unique to Sri Lanka or the current disaster. Refugees and people traumatized by conflict suffer disproportionately from gender violence. One study by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 80% of all refugee women experience rape and sexual abuse. According to a UN report on Violence Against Women,
“Women may be particularly vulnerable to sexual assault and sexual violence because of the conditions of dependency that are often created in refugee camps. Refugees, particularly women, are likely to be dependent on others for food or assistance. This dependency renders them vulnerable to demands for sexual access in exchange for such assistance. When “there is no opportunity for work in the camp, or where camp administrative systems do not ensure that women receive their rations, the difficulty of meeting basic subsistence needs often leads women or girls to prostitute themselves in exchange for food, shelter and protection.”
What is truly disturbing about this story is that in many cases this abuse is perpetrated by peacekeepers & aid workers. (sigh).
For an **excellent** resource on this topic check out the Stop Violence Against Women site.
–Contributed by Brendan Sweeney

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