Women Refugees in Europe Are Told Rape “Is Definitely Not the Problem”

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I thought this story was going to be straightforward: The United Nations and the big crisis response groups have been talking forever — even I might be tempted to say ad nauseum — about “incorporating gender into crisis response” and other such boring-sounding things. So when I started asking about the gender side of the refugee crisis in Central Europe, I was shocked to find no one — literally, no one — doing anything about it.

Instead, no one seemed to really see the problem. I think now that this was, literally, the issue: They could see people who need blankets or food or tents to sleep in, but they couldn’t see women being harassed, assaulted or exploited. And because they couldn’t see it, they didn’t believe it happened.

Or, as one UNHCR spokesperson told me when I asked about rape and sexual exploitation of women who walk from Greece to Germany, “There isn’t even time for that.”

But if you make a point of asking women about this, as I did, you’ll find out that just isn’t true.

Here’s the full story, which managed to prompt a pretty major turn-around from a top UNHCR official a few days later.

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