South Asia: Women tsunami victims continue to face violence and poverty in relief camps Print E-mail

e-Paper Monday April 2 2007


  London Sunday April 1 2007

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Violence Plagues Female Tsunami Victims

NEW DELHI (AP) - Many women devastated by the 2004 tsunami continue to face violence and impoverishment at relief camps in South Asian nations like India and Sri Lanka, according to a new report.

Conducted by the Alliance Of Women Effected By Tsunami, the report covers India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. It was released in New Delhi on Saturday ahead of a summit of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation, or SAARC.

The alliance was create by the Sri Lanka-based Action Aid International. The alliance's members include more than 170 non-governmental organizations and women's groups working in the tsunami-hit areas of India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Women who lost their livelihoods after the tsunami have been forced to take extreme measures to secure the survival of their families and themselves, said Sriyani Perera, a spokeswoman for the alliance.

The report highlighted the plight of one woman, forced to sell her kidney to make money.

``We were shifted to a place where there is no work, no food to feed our children. I sold my kidney and got a small amount. They did not give me the promised amount. Now I am suffering with heavy abdominal pain. I cannot work,'' the report quoted Kalpana, a woman living in a camp in India, as saying.

Under normal circumstances there is a high incidence of violence against women in South Asian countries, but tsunami-affected women reported that violence intensified and continues even two years after the disaster struck them, the report said. It didn't include any statistics on such violence.

Discussions with over 7,500 tsunami affected women in five countries reveal that failure to involve women and girls in decision making on relief and rehabilitation fueled an increase in violence against them, it said.

Government compensation and rehabilitation programs most often recognize men as the heads of households, which results in women - particularly single, older or disabled women - being left out of such efforts, the report stated.

It urged the SAARC member-states, notably India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, to eliminate all forms of violence against women - emotional, physical and sexual - and ensure that their rights are protected in the wake of all disasters. Most families are dominated by men in South Asian countries.

The report demanded governments punish those who perpetrate violence against women and ensure the implementation of laws and policies to prevent violence against them.
States have to guarantee appropriate access to education and health facilities in post disaster situations for girls and women, the report stated. Also, governments have to ensure women's rights to land and their access to adequate housing.

The report said compensation and livelihood rehabilitation focused mainly on men and neglected the situation of women.

``Women were left out of consultations, formulation of policies and design of programs for relief operations, camp management, damage and needs assessments, allocation of houses and land, and the rebuilding of livelihoods,'' the report stated.

In December 2004, deadly tsunami waves triggered by a powerful earthquake killed nearly 230,000 people killed across Asia.