Thursday, March 24, 2011


Sexual violence flourishes during disasters and turmoil

With the inception of a new government, the struggle may have ended for a few in Egypt, marking a closure to the pain and grief of millions who participated in the change process. But then for a section of society the struggle still continues. Sexual harassment and rapes are not only rampant across the nation, the frequency and occurrence have seen a sharp rise during the recent political turmoil. So much so that a woman journalist of CBS, Lara Logan, was sexually assaulted and beaten at Tahrir Square. In others incidents women were reportedly beaten and ripped away from the groups of men.

It is as if this is a global phenomenon. Immediately aft er any form of crisis, the crisis on the fairer sex does not seem to end. Their predicament starts at the beginning of the crisis and it goes on for almost forever. And unfortunately such incidents are not only confined to a few weak states or just during a few transitional times but can be seen all across the world. In Sierra Leone, in March last year, during the clashes between the two political parties – Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and All People's Congress (APC) – around six rape cases were reported. The situation has become grimmer in countries like Afghanistan, Sudan and Colombia where protests have become a periodic affair. In these nations, women are just not co-incidental 'collateral damage' but are the chosen victims. Going by the reports (which are largely understated) around 60,000 women were raped in the Balkans in 1990, more than 5,00,000 rapes took place during Rwanda’s genocide in 1994 and around 2,00,000 rape charges have been reported in Congo since 1996. Beside this, numerous cases of sexual harassment, flesh trade and women displacement are also reported.

And as I said in the beginning, that the crisis could be of any kind but the fallout on women is pretty much the same. For example, Haitian women faced severe sexual violence during Haiti’s earthquake especially on account of weak law and order situation during and aft er the quake. On top of it, as per Amnesty International, the spread of flimsy camps made the entire trauma more traumatic. Another report by KOFAVIV – a women's organisation cited that there were more than 242 rapes between January and June in 2010 in Haiti.

Even in the developed countries like the United States, such crimes are a common phenomenon during such turbulent times. Hundreds of rape cases were reported during Hurricane Katrina. Coming over to South Asia, the post-tsunami rescue eff ort comes as another disaster for women. It went to an extent that Sri Lankan women felt traumatised in rescue camps which almost became a one-stop destination for rapes. Flesh trade and trafficking of women for prostitution were also part of this traumatic experience. Indonesian women's organisation Komnas Perempuan went on proving 45 cases of violence against female tsunami refugees.

Every time the socio-economic cost of such crises is highlighted but it fails to represent the cost that is incurred by various sections of the societal set up. It is an extremely tedious process, but then going by the universality and magnanimity of the problem, a gender based post-crises cost mapping has become almost an imperative. It is only when we evaluate the extent of the damage that we can probably evolve a gender based relief plan for the benefit of women who have been at the receiving end. Till it happens, the 'crisis' would never be over for women.


No comments:

Post a Comment