Yesterday, Reuters began reporting that the government of Chad has formally requested that the mandate for the peacekeeping mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) not be renewed when it comes to an end in March. But the peacekeeping mission, known by its French acronym MINURCAT, provides much needed security for refugees and humanitarian aid workers in eastern Chad and northeastern CAR, regions which suffer from rampant insecurity and violence.
In September 2009, Amnesty International released a report on violence against refugee women in Eastern Chad. The report found that women and girls face high levels of rape and harassment on a daily basis both inside and outside the refugee camps. These findings are similar to those of other organizations, such as Physicians for Human Rights.
I remember one woman asking me if there was anywhere she could go and feel safe. I didn’t know what to answer because I don’t think there is an answer – Aid worker in Eastern Chad, in an interview with Amnesty International
In these camps, the burden of finding food and other necessities for survival falls on the shoulders of women. They must regularly leave the relative security of the camps to fetch water, travel to village markets, tend vegetable plots, and gather wood for the fire and straw for the livestock. Once outside the camps, the risk of rape, sexual assault and harassment becomes even higher. Perpetrators of the violence are rarely brought to justice and Amnesty found that even when those responsible could be identified, Chadian authorities did not follow-up with the cases. Many women who have been raped are shunned or left by their husbands, and young girls who are victims find it difficult to marry.
While MINURCAT and the DIS, a Chadian police force supported by the UN, do their best to protect women in and around the camps, there still remains much to be done to ensure that the culture of impunity in eastern Chad comes to an end and to stop violence against women and girls in the region. Both MINURCAT and the Chadian government have important roles to play to make sure women and girls are protected.
These women fled Darfur, hoping that the international community and Chadian authorities would offer them some measure of safety and protection. That protection has proved to be elusive and they remain under attack – Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Program
Take action now on behalf of these women and girls. Help us call on the Chadian government to ensure that adequate measures are put in place to protect women and girls in eastern Chad.
Rebecca Friedrichs contributed to this blog post.