CENTRAL AFRICA: Uncurbed Sexual Violence Worries Female Refugees

Sunday, April 17, 2011
Sunday Post
Central Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Refugee women have expressed concern that perpetrators of crimes, in particular sexual violence and rape, are left to commit the crimes with impunity.

During the last day of the fifth regional dialogue with refugee women and girls held at Mulungushi International Conference Centre yesterday, the 10 refugee women from Angola, Burundi, Congo DR, Rwanda and Somalia based at Meheba and Mayukwayukwa settlements said the number of rapes of young children and adolescent girls was high and very little was done.

“The number of rapes of young children as young as four years, and adolescent girls is high and very little is done. Women fear leaving their children alone at home, or send their girls to the overcrowded schools where protection cannot be guaranteed,” they said.

The women said medical care and staff were limited, while medication was not enough and clinics were so far away and that this resulted in deaths.
The women also highlighted their concern about lack of schools as girls dropped out early and were forced into early marriages.

The urban refugee women also felt constrained by the fact that work permits were linked to identity cards, which made it difficult for them to live in urban areas once the work permit expired.

They appealed to have self-employment permits which would be transferable to other members of the family, rather than being solely available to a male head of household.
And visiting United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) assistant high commissioner for protection Erika Feller said she was disturbed to hear of rape stories and the issue of impunity.

Feller said the victims were made to be double victims if the perpetrators were not punished and that it was a collective failure that women still faced these problems on a daily basis in 2011.

“It is everyone's responsibility to empower the refugee women and to provide them with skills which can make them more independent.” she said.

And Feller said cessation was a positive development as no refugee should be a refugee forever.
She, however, called for consideration for those refugees who did not wish to return and had valid reasons.

As part of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, seven dialogues are being held worldwide (India, Jordan, Colombia, Uganda, Zambia, Thailand and Finland) to learn more about the protection problems refugee women and to identify attainable solutions.