Somali women attacked on journey to refugee camp

Lily Boisson of CBC News writes that Somali women fleeing drought and famine in their home country face sexual and gender-based violence as they journey to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Women traveling to the camps with only their children and few possessions are vulnerable to rape and robbery, and once in Dadaab, these dangers remain. The UNHCR reports that sexual and gender-based violence has increased by four times in Dadaab in the past six months.

Women face particular danger of sexual assault and violence when searching for firewood in the bush outside of the camps. With many refugees in competition for wood, tensions are high. Boisson quotes Sinead Murray of the International Rescue Committee as saying, “There’s a fear of going to the bush because they think they are going to encounter violence. Many women say that there are men in the bush and these men have guns and they’re going to attack.”

Even the numbers of reported attacks in Dadaab are misleading; the stigma associated with sexual assault, coupled with lack of confidence that perpetrators will be penalized, leads to an underreporting of gender-based violence. While aid groups work to offer counseling to victims and provide female refugees with whistles and flashlights, the pervasive threat of violence against women in the camps reveals the complete lack of protection and security of the displaced Somalis.

Voice of America also reports on sexual violence against Somali women.