World Refugee Day: End targeting women as a weapon of war
19 June 2009
Caritas Internationalis says there is a collective failure by governments to protect women and girls in conflict situations from rape and other forms of violence and exploitation.
Women and children represent almost half of the internally displaced and refugee populations worldwide.
Read Caritas Internationalis Statement for UNHCR Annual Consultation ( English, French, Spanish)
Women and children represent almost half of the internally displaced and refugee populations worldwide. Caritas is using World Refugee Day 20 June to highlight the targeting of women and girl refugees in war.
In Colombia’s civil war, women and girls face sexual abuse, forced recruitment and exploitation as cheap laborers. 17.7 percent of women in Colombia who’d fled their homes reported the cause as sexual violence.
In Sri Lanka, women and girls who have fled the conflict to go to camps say violence is their chief source of fear. Overcrowding in camps leads to lack of privacy for women and adolescent girls. This creates an environment for abuse.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled eastern region, 463 rape cases in South Kivu have been reported in the past three months - more than half the number reported in the whole of 2008.
Caritas members from 11 countries will be attending a UN consultation on refugees next week organised by UNHCR on 29 June in Geneva to call for action on protecting women and children refugees .
Caritas Internationalis Head of Migration and Trafficking Martina Liebsch said, “Humiliating women through violence and abuse is a common feature in armed conflicts around the world today. Women are often the last to leave as they stay to look after their families. This makes them vulnerable and subject to violence.
“The effects of this violence are devastating. Apart from the physical and psychological damage that rape brings to the individual, there is also a grave risk of unwanted pregnancy and HIV infection. It affects families, communities and villages. Some will never totally recover from this attack to their dignity.
“Caritas says that although the international humanitarian laws are in place that guarantee the protection of civilians, women, and children, they are not being upheld.
Governments and UN agencies must address this failure by improving protection, medical treatment, counselling and means for rehabilitation and compensation. Women should be encouraged to report on the abuses they suffered to start their healing. To do justice to their suffering their perpetrators should be brought to justice.”
Caritas works in conflicts around the world, providing help to refugee and displaced women such as food, shelter, hygiene items for pregnancy after a rape, but also trauma counseling, training as community leaders, livelihood trainings and micro-credits.
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