News / Middle East

In Lebanon, Syrian Refugees Resort to 'Survival Sex'

A homeless Syrian woman and her children are seen along a street in Beirut, July 22, 2013.
A homeless Syrian woman and her children are seen along a street in Beirut, July 22, 2013.
Three-quarters of the Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon, because of the continuing fighting in their home country, are women and children. They make up a highly vulnerable population that’s easy prey as economic distress is forcing more and more Syrian women and girls to consider prostitution.

They are turning to prostitution in order to secure money and food for their families, say aid workers, who argue the women have little choice but to resort to what they describe as "survival sex".

Rima ZaaZaa of the Lebanese charity Solidarity and Development said, with no end in sight to the Syrian refugee influx, extreme poverty will force more to trade their bodies for money and food.
 
“There are certain shelters that are known that the prostitution percentage is very high in these shelters, whether in Ain Helweh camp or in Sadaya, in different areas they are known. A lot of prostitution is taking place,” explained Rima ZaaZaa.

More than 600,000 Syrians have registered with the United Nations in Lebanon as refugees but the Lebanese government estimates there are more than a million already in the country. By year’s end there could be two million, placing impossible strains on the resources of a small country mired in economic problems and on the international aid community.

Unlike the governments of Jordan and Turkey, the Lebanese government has refused to build new refugee camps to house Syrian refugees. With Syrian women and girls scattered throughout Lebanon in shabby rental accommodations, makeshift shelters, and abandoned buildings, aids groups say they often face sexual harassment and demands for sex from landlords, store owners, and Lebanese officials.

Afana, a 26-year-old mother of two young children, said it is not uncommon even for male aid workers to demand sex. She explained through a translator what happened to her at one charity.  “In one of the NGOs he told me if you accept to sleep with me, if we can have sexual relation, every time I have any kind of access to assistance it will be yours. I will have your name on it. So I started crying and went out of the NGO,” she recalled. 

Lebanese officials describe reports of increased prostitution and the trading of sex for assistance as exaggerated, claiming they are isolated cases. They say few women are being trafficked, pointing to figures from the Internal Security Forces showing there were 27 trafficked women in 2011 with exactly the same number reported last year.

But this is missing the point, aid workers said. They agree organized criminal trafficking isn’t large scale in Lebanon. What has become endemic is women and girls are being forced by their circumstances to resort to street-walking and survival sex and the aid workers say many men are happy to exploit their plight seeing them as fair game, they added.

Qass Em-Saad of the Lebanese branch of the aid organization Developmental Action Without Borders says Syrian women and girls are so desperate they are selling themselves for as little as 10,000 Lebanese pounds - about $7 - outside Ain Helweh, the Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon where more than 20,000 Palestinian Syrians have sought refuge.

“Here we have a lot of cases but also because of the taboo and because of the Islamist factions that we have inside the camp the people they are afraid to talk about these things but if you go outside the camp you will see those Palestinians and Syrian girls or women who suffer from poverty, they are going outside the camp and they practice these sexual activities,” said Saad.

Saad’s group is trying to train the Lebanese police to see these women as victims rather than as offenders.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: rich from: d.c.
July 30, 2013 8:43 AM
As everyone knows, prostitution is the world's oldest trade-it hasn't died out, and won't.

In almost all mammalian societies you have a variation of prostitution in which the males with the most resources mate with females in which an exchange of sex for resources takes place.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs