News / Middle East

Refugee Women Contend With Domestic Abuse, Sexual Exploitation

FILE - Shoppers walk along the main street of the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Beirut.
FILE - Shoppers walk along the main street of the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Beirut.
Palestinian women in Lebanon who are long-term refugees understand the problems faced by women who have fled the Syrian civil war - they share similar hardships and also contend with domestic abuse as well as sexual exploitation.
 
The dozen Palestinian refugee women at a focus group session arranged for VOA by a local NGO (non-government organization) could hardly contain themselves when asked about the specific challenges they face; they talked over each other, desperate to vent their frustrations. 
 
They said living in exile in camps amid rising insecurity and contending with economic hardship is bad enough, but there is also a heavy toll on their family lives with an increase in domestic abuse. All dozen women said they experienced beatings at the hands of their husbands.
 
A mother of two, Sameeha, said the pressures have an effect on the psychological wellbeing of all the family - parents and children alike. She said it is like a ticking bomb and explodes frequently. One woman admits that she can be as violent as her husband and takes it out on the children.
 
Zeinab, who has three kids, said her husband starts beating her and the children when he feels under pressure.
 
The hour-long session with the women took place at Ain el-Hilweh, a Palestinian refugee camp an hour south of Beirut.
 
More than 400,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, half of them in a dozen camps spread across the country. Never easy, camp life has become much harder since the civil war erupted in neighboring Syria.
 
The camp’s pre-Syrian civil war population of 80,000 has been swollen with the addition of 20,000 or more Syrian refugees, mostly ethnic Palestinians. That is straining the resources of the camp, which is made up for the most part of poorly-built two-story buildings on narrow streets. Rents and the price of food have jumped. Competition for jobs, mostly day laboring, has become fiercer and the Syrians are willing to work for lower wages. Meanwhile, the camp is experiencing increased violent rivalry between armed Palestinian and Islamist factions.
 
NGOs are struggling to assist the women in the camp. Cultural norms dictate against the airing of family problems and the women say their husbands will not agree to family counseling.
 
“He refused directly,” said one woman when asked about her husband’s thoughts on participation.
 
The Palestinians have sympathy for the newly arrived refugees from Syria, who they are aware are often more vulnerable. Many of the Syrian women are without husbands, who are either dead or chose to remain behind in Syria.
 
A Lebanese psychologist, who asked not to be named, said there is a high incidence of sexual abuse and exploitation by male relatives and neighbors among the Syrian refugees, who mostly live in a confined ”tent city” within Ain el-Hilweh.
 
The psychologist said mothers who come to her want to find ways of stopping the abuse of daughters; younger women do not know what to do and are afraid of disclosing to other relatives the abuse they are enduring.
 
The problems of domestic and sexual abuse among refugee communities in Lebanon are of mounting concern to international and local NGOs who are trying to develop strategies to help.

You May Like

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down up to three percent, while US market indexes were off around 2.5 percent in afternoon trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs