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The silent majority: Despite making up more than two-thirds of the people escaping the violence and oppression in Syria, women and children are as vulnerable as ever in refugee camps

Zaatari refugee camp, in the middle of a bleak stretch of desert in northern Jordan, just 15 miles from the Syrian border, is home to more than 120,000 people escaping the violence and repression in Syria. Three-quarters are women and children. Many of the women and girls have fled their homes after experiencing atrocities involving multiple rapes and sexual torture by armed men. 

The scandal of Zaatari and other refugee camps and dwellings is that these vulnerable, traumatised women and girls are not being adequately protected from sexual exploitation and forced marriage by those mandated to keep them from further harm. 

Women and girls not only fear retribution by the perpetrators, but also by male members of their own families because the shame and stigma of rape falls on the victim rather than the assailant. Indeed, many families are marrying off their daughters to "protect" them from rape. Others revert to early marriage if their daughters have been sexually assaulted "to safeguard their honour". In one extreme case a young woman was shot dead by her father when an armed group approached to prevent the "disgrace" of her being raped.

A recently published report by the International Rescue Committee found that female Syrian refugees are not safe from sexual and domestic violence in Zaatari and other camps, and that reports of forced marriage of women and girls are increasing. A child protection group found that the women and girls in the camp identified rape and kidnapping as a primary reason that families fled from Syria, but that sexual violence was rarely reported.

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January 12th, 2016
10:01 PM
Why is it always that women's needs and protection in society comes second to the savagery of men?There needs to be women and children camps only as it is this group who are the only ones in real danger! Might it be that men still are the power base in most civilized nations and feel that it is not worth spending money on as they still feel women rights should come second to men's needs!!!

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