On September 29th, 2009, the Associated Press reported that women and girls who escaped from the fighting in Darfur have become victims of rape within refugee camps, a disturbing trend found in countries torn apart by war. Refugee camps that should symbolized hope, freedom, and peace have become Darfari women’s nightmare. Getting water and firewood outside of the refugee camps in Chad is a known risk factor for women. When confronted with reports of rape within the Chad refugee camps, U.N. officials refused to comment. The next day, UN officials, led by Secretary of State Clinton, signed a resolution that condemned sexual violence in war zones.
Clinton stated, “The United Nations had a special obligation to protect women and children, war's most vulnerable and violated victims." Yet, officials still refuse to acknowledge incidents in the Chad refugee camps. The UN is not only to blame. The government spokesperson for Chad, Mahmat Hissene, stated, "Before the refugees came, we did not have rape cases in Chad; rape cases started when the Sudanese came. If there are cases of rape in the camps we cannot prevent them. The government is not responsible for security in the camps."
In addition, through a lack of UN support, the United States is also complicit.
Therefore, the UN is posed with a difficult situation: The Chadian government, the host of the majority of refugees in the region, blames the victims of violence. And while it is noble the U.S. signed a resolution that condemns sexual violence, more actual action is necessary to provide security for women in the region. Rape should not be an expected occurrence in one’s daily routine.
The U.S. should take decisive action against sexual violence in refugee camps and support UNAMID so that the peacekeeping force can fulfill its mandate and those perpetrators of violence are held accountable. It is imperative that the United States keeps its promise, and protects these women.