‘Women seek­ing aid be­ing asked for sex­ual favours’

Hindustan Times (Gurgaon) - - World - HT Cor­re­spon­dent let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NEW DELHI: Days af­ter Ox­fam’s re­lief op­er­a­tions in Haiti were hit by a mas­sive sex scan­dal, a re­port says women in strife-hit Syria have been sex­u­ally ex­ploited by work­ers de­liv­er­ing aid on be­half of the UN and in­ter­na­tional char­i­ties.

Aid work­ers told the BBC that the men would trade food and rides in ve­hi­cles for sex­ual favours. They said the ex­ploita­tion is so wide­spread that some women refuse to visit dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tres be­cause “peo­ple would as­sume they had of­fered their bod­ies for the aid they brought home”.

The BBC quoted a United Na­tions Pop­u­la­tion Fund re­port ti­tled “Voices from Syria 2018”, which said: “Ex­am­ples were given of women or girls mar­ry­ing of­fi­cials for a short pe­riod of time for ‘sex­ual ser­vices’ in or­der to re­ceive meals; dis­trib­u­tors ask­ing for tele­phone num­bers of women and girls; giv­ing them lifts to their houses ‘to take some­thing in re­turn’ or ob­tain­ing dis­tri­bu­tions ‘in ex­change for a visit to her home’ or ‘in ex­change for ser­vices, such as spend­ing a night with them.’

“Women and girls ‘with­out male pro­tec­tors’, such as wid­ows and di­vorcees as well as fe­male IDPs (in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons), were re­garded as par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to sex­ual ex­ploita­tion.” One of the work­ers the BBC talked to claimed aid agen­cies were not tak­ing ac­tion against sex­ual ex­ploita­tion by their work­ers be­cause the or­gan­i­sa­tions de­pended on third par­ties and lo­cals in or­der to send re­lief ma­te­ri­als into the more dan­ger­ous parts of war-torn Syria.

This is not the first time the sex­ual ex­ploita­tion of Syr­ian women has been re­ported.

In March 2015, a hu­man­i­tar­ian ad­viser for an in­ter­na­tional char­ity was told that women from the Dara’a and Quneitra ar­eas of Syria had been of­fered aid in ex­change for sex.

In June that year, the In­ter­na­tional Res­cue Com­mit­tee (IRC) sur­veyed 190 women and girls in Dara’a and Quneitra, with around 40% say­ing they had been sex­u­ally ex­ploited when ac­cess­ing ser­vices, in­clud­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian aid.

A UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees spokesper­son quoted by the BBC said the body was aware of the al­le­ga­tions in 2015.


A dis­placed Syr­ian woman with a child in Deir Ez­zor city.

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