Syria conflict: Women ‘sexually exploited in return for aid’

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Syria conflict: Women 'sexually exploited in return for aid'

A recent report has found out that local men distributing food and other international aid in Syria have been withholding deliveries from women, unless they agree to give sexual favours.

“Examples were given of women or girls marrying officials for a short period of time for ‘sexual services’ in order to receive meals; distributors asking for telephone numbers of women and girls; giving them lifts to their houses ‘to take something in return’ or obtaining distributions ‘in exchange for a visit to her home’ or ‘in exchange for services, such as spending a night with them,’” the new United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) study found.

The abuse was widespread across Syria’s south, and particularly affected vulnerable women and girls “without male protectors”, such as widows, divorcees and female IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), said the 2018 Voices from Syria report, which examines gender-based violence.

One of the workers the BBC talked to claimed aid agencies were not taking action against sexual exploitation by their workers because the organisations depended on third parties and locals in order to send relief materials into the more dangerous parts of war-torn Syria.

This is not the first time the sexual exploitation of Syrian women has been reported.

In March 2015, a humanitarian adviser for an international charity was told that women from the Dara’a and Quneitra areas of Syria had been offered aid in exchange for sex.

In June that year, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) surveyed 190 women and girls in Dara’a and Quneitra, with around 40% saying they had been sexually exploited when accessing services, including humanitarian aid.

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