This is an open letter translated from German by Nash Montana
A coalition of women from various organizations concerned with women’s rights and matters, has written a letter to the Hessen legislative assembly.
They start the letter by saying that the increasing influx of refugees has been dramatically making things worse for women and young girls in Hessen’s refugee reception camp:
“Women and children are housed in mass tents that are not divided by gender. They have no divided sanitary installations, they have no possibility for privacy by locking doors because there aren’t any, and they have no possibility to retreat into safe spaces. These facts increase the lack of protection for women and children within the refugee camp.
This is a situation that plays into the hands of men who already view women and girls as subordinate and less worth, and they view especially women who travel alone as fair game.
The consequence of this attitude is multiple rapes and sexual attacks, and there are now also increasingly surfacing reports of forced prostitution.
It has to be stated here, loud and clear, that these are not single incidents!
Women tell of multiple incidents where they, and children as well, boys and girls, are sexually harassed, molested, attacked, and raped. Many women refuse to take off their daily street clothes when they go to bed. They are afraid to use bathrooms at night because they have to walk through camp and they get attacked and beaten and raped not just on their way to the bathroom, but men wait in bathroom stalls for women. Even during the day life has become treacherous and dangerous for the women and children.
Many women that have fled their countries didn’t just flee because of war or civil war. They fled because they were facing forced marriage or female genital mutilation. These women are exposed to extreme danger when they flee their home countries, especially when they travel alone or with children. Even the company of male relatives or acquaintances will not keep the women safe from violence. On the contrary, it often leads to extreme dependence and sexual exploitation.
Most of these women already have survived extremely traumatizing experiences in their home lands. They were victims of violence, they were exposed to abductions, torture, monetary blackmail and rape, sometimes for years before they were able to leave their homes.
The feeling to have ‘come home’, to be able to walk freely, without fear, without looking over their shoulder, is for many of these women the biggest gift of all.
But the present situations in these camps cause re-traumatization or new trauma. it just can’t and it shouldn’t be, that those that need our protection the most, women, children, have to be carrying this big burden of fear and pain.
This is why we are asking you, to please consider our demands immediately to provide these women with protective housing, meaning either apartments or houses, for women and children that are traveling alone. With regard to their cultural and religious needs, we ask you to add housing like this for these most needy refugees.
These accommodations need to be equipped in such a way that men cannot and will not have any access to these facilities, with the exception of first aid, ambulance and security personnel. Also it is very important that these facilities all have community rooms, bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms that can all be securely reached and locked so that no outsider can get in. Access needs to be restricted to these units so that there is access only via secure entrance and exit.
Women who have been exposed to violence, sexual and physical, need to be given access to a safety net and help physically as well as mentally. Also we want to make sure that there will be translators available that can help these women become more comfortable.
We have to make sure that these women and children will receive an adequate amount of care, and can in the future experience a life without violence.
We are begging you to please consider this as the bipartisan effort that this truly is. Please make a decision in a realistic time frame, because the situation for these women and children is getting worse with every day passing.
[Editor: Ultimately of course, you cannot compensate for the culture of a people with the sorts of measures being requested. With people of good character these issues would be rare or absent under current conditions and with people who view women as Islam teaches, no amount of security will make much difference, certainly in the long run]