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Harassment of Syrian refugee women still on-going and unpunished

23-4-2014

Syrian refugee women in Lebanon are still subjected to sexual blackmail in return for assistance.  The Higher Relief Council as well as various political groups have severed relief funding originally allocated to a school director in Aley after complaints lodged by two Syrian women who accused him of requesting sexual favors in return for relief aid.  This happened two weeks after a report on the details of the sinister affair by As Safir newspaper on 27 January 2014.  Syrian children in the school were also moved to other schools in the area.

According to the details published about this affair, the school director sexually harassed a 35 year old Syrian cleaner in the school whom he did not pay her dues unless she concedes to giving him sexual favors along with her young sister in return for which he will help her in covering the cost of an operation for their father.  The woman in question refused to be sexually blackmailed and was able to secure medical help for her father from other sources.  The accused refused the charges against him.  However, political party representatives in the areas closed the school under the pretense that there is a problem with the educational curriculum it is following.  The UNHCR has however confirmed to As Safir that the school was closed and the children were moved to another facility based on the results of the internal investigation of the sexual harassment charges.  The investigation was carried out by UNHCR and the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Although many people and organizations were compelled to help the victim after the report was published in As Safir, however, the victim faced the usual challenge faced by all rape and harassment victims namely the difficulty of providing hard evidence which prevented her from suing the perpetrator in court.  Within the same vein, lawyer Mohana Ishak of Kafa noted that the issue of providing hard evidence prevents the majority of the victims of sexual exploitation from suing the harasser or rapist.  She added that usually, people tend to doubt the victim and not the perpetrator who can counter sue and be pronounced innocent.
Source: Al-Safir 22 April 2014

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