Sexual violence in natural disasters

DURING disasters everyone is vulnerable, but women and girls are more so because they can be and have been subjected to sexual, assault, rape and harassment.

This was shared by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) co-ordinator Shamima Ali while responding to questions by this newspaper regarding gender-based violence in emergencies (GBViE).

“For FWCC, for the protection of women, we do have cluster and protection groups with the Government and non-government organisations (NGOs) that respond to survivors and people who are victims of flooding,” Ms Ali said.

“It’s of particular concern that women, when people are visiting, the first responders particularly that they ensure women are protected at the evacuation centres and they are able to have separate bathroom facilities and not put together with men so that they are safe.

“Also when people are doing assessments and so on, they should take this into consideration. Another thing is when people take in clothes and package supplies, they should know women have particular sanitary needs and clothing.

“These are things we encourage people to pay heed to. Our teams that are going out, they do take in these supplies in the packages and we are also available for counselling and reporting if there is sexual harassment and so on.”

She said a code of conduct for all workers in emergencies had been developed by the United Nations (UN) agencies, the Government and NGOs.

She said this was a Government document for first responders and the various cluster groups met, planned and worked out strategies for action plans during natural disasters.

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