Girls At High-Risk For Rape: The New Fear of Typhoon Survivors

You would think that after surviving one of the world’s strongest typhoons, you’d have survived the worst. Unfortunately, conditions after such a destructive event prove to be quite dangerous as well.

Much of Philippines is left trying to cope with all the loss brought on by Typhoon Haiyan, otherwise known as Typhoon Yolanda. Days after the typhoon, residents are left in dire need of food, water and medical treatment.

Bodies line the streets in need of body bags. People wait in crowds at nearby airports for days just to receive some food. Tons of people are left without a home and must seek shelter in abandoned vehicles. Citizens cover their face in an effort to avoid the stench of rotting bodies. Looters have begun to take what they can simply because they want their family to survive. In desperation, some have dug into water pipes to keep from dehydration.

This nightmare has become a reality for some of the Filipino citizens who’s homeland was destroyed by the typhoon. While victims must go each day worrying about their survival, the British government points out another terror which haunts the victims.

According to The Telegraph, thousands of Filipino women and girls will face the very real risk of violence, including sexual exploitation and abuse, rape, forced marriage and trafficking.

“We are concerned about the safety of women and girls in the Philippines,” says Justine Greening, Britain’s international development secretary, who is helping to coordinate the UK’s response to the crisis. “After previous emergencies in the Philippines, we have seen an increase in violence against women and girls and in particular the trafficking of girls.”

According to The Telegraph, this danger is common during natural disasters in developing countries because people turn to trafficking as a way to survive, the weakened environment creates more vulnerable situations for women, and these issues are simply not prioritized because they are not considered life-threatening.

“Currently, girls and women in crisis situations such as earthquakes, hurricanes, famine and conflict are more vulnerable to violence, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual assault, forced marriage and trafficking, because of the lack of protection and provision for their needs.” says Justine Greening. “The UK Government believes that the prevention and response to violence against girls and women in emergencies is a life-saving action and should be prioritised from the outset, alongside other life-saving interventions,” Ms Greening said.

Greening has already advocated for certain measures to be taken such as sending a women’s ‘protection specialist’ and solar lanterns because better lighting creates safer environments. Obviously, these are very quick tactics and UK hopes other countries will work in solidarity with them to create long-term strategies.

“It’s about giving girls a voice, participation matters,” Greening explains. “It’s also about choice over what women do post-crisis – what they do with their lives, what to do for a job, when to get married and what happens to their bodies. This matters.”