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An Other Form Of Humanity

Humanity has been ashamed yet again, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) has revealed that cyclone victims in Mozambique are being forced to trade sex for food!
The New York-based international Non-Governmental Organisation that conducts Research and Advocacy on Human Rights has requested the concerned authorities in the southern African nation to investigate and prosecute the people who had exploited women affected by Cyclone Idai, sexually! It is to be noted that Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique on March 14. It not only blew away electricity power lines and trees, but also destroyed many homes… The United Nations (UN) said in its latest report that more than a million people are yet to get back on their feet!

People carry their personal effects after Tropical Cyclone Idai, in Beira, Mozambique.

Meanwhile, the HRW has said that some community leaders, closely linked to the ruling Frelimo Party, have forced young women to have sex with them in exchange for ‘a bag of rice’, while some others have reportedly demanded money for having their names included in the aid distribution lists. After receiving information from victims, residents and aid workers in this regard, Director (Southern Africa) of HRW Dewa Mavhinga stressed: “The sexual exploitation of women struggling to feed their families after Cyclone Idai is revolting and cruel and should be stopped immediately.” He said: “Emergency Aid should be given freely to all people in need, and the government, along with the aid providers, should ensure that Aid Distribution is never used as an opportunity to commit abuse.
With a number of humanitarian agencies arriving in Maputo with food items, clothes and medicines meant for the storm survivors, the UN has urged the global community to donate around USD 282 million in order to fund emergency assistance for three months! Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Board has approved a zero-interest USD 118.2 million loan for carrying out recovery programmes in Mozambique. The UN World Food Programme has provided food to nearly one million people, so far…

Speaking at a media conference in Tica (Nhamatanda District), a senior community leader (who wished to remain anonymous) said that they were storing food and other aid materials in different places as access by road became impossible in many villages. Later, those materials would be distributed among families on a weekly basis. As “the food is not enough for everyone“, some local leaders are heard exploiting the situation, by asking people to get their names included on the distribution lists, added the community leader!
She further said that often the lists exclude households headed by women. “In some of the villages, women and their children have not seen any food for weeks. They would do anything for food, including sleeping with men in charge of the food distribution,” insisted the community leader. Internally displaced women, staying at temporary camps, have also been sexually exploited by some men in the town of Mbimbir. A cyclone victim told HRW officials that they did not receive humanitarian aid till April 5, even after flooding (and inundation) stopped in the area. According to the victim, the women in distress at Mbimbir have been coerced into exchanging sexual favours for food by the local officials. “When he arrived, he placed the bags on the floor, and started touching his thing (penis) and told me it was now my turn (to) thank him. I told my children to go to my friend’s house. When they left, I slept with him,” she told the HRW officials. Another woman said that a local leader told her that he could help her, if she was nice to him. “We agreed on a time to meet and do the thing (have sex),” she insisted.

Houses, schools, hospitals and roads are completely destroyed, crops and livestock are lost. Many of the survivors of Cyclone Idai are left with nothing.

A senior Mozambique official has expressed serious concern over the sexual violence against women by the aid workers, saying that the government is committed to protect the women. The official also said that Foreign (read White) Aid-Workers, too, have a tendency to exploit the African women!
Violence Against Women (VAW) is also known as Gender-Based Violence. Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) are widely considered as violent acts primarily or exclusively committed against women and girls. It’s another form of hate crime committed against women and girls expressly because they belong to the feminine gender. The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women clearly states: “Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women”, and “violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.

In 2006, then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had declared: “Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her.” However, his advice fell on deaf ears.

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