More than half of refugee girls in Lebanon’s capital Beirut face regular sexual violence and harassment according to a recent Plan International report.
Girls living as refugees in Beirut capital city of Lebanon face sexual violence and harassment on a daily basis, a new report released on Tuesday by the non-government organization Plan International.
Nearly 400 adolescent girls aged between 10 and 19 described their experiences and the multiple intimidations they face, growing up as refugee girls in Beirut. The overwhelming majority confessed not feeling safe whether it is day or night and fearing for their safety when they navigate alone through the city.
"We're too afraid [to go out alone]. There are always drunk men who harass us and even the ones who aren't drunk harass us," an 18-year-old Syrian girl told the researchers.
Girls said they are systematically harassed or followed by men and boys, while others expressed fears about being kidnapped or raped.
In addition, 10 percent of the girls reported being forcibly engaged or married, a reality that is becoming more and more common according to the organization. "Some girls, their parents force them to leave school to get married. My friends all got married and now they have kids," a 13-year-old Syrian girl stated.
A few days before World Refugee Day which is June 20, the report urges local authorities, civil society, and international stakeholders to take measures to help these girls.
"Adolescent girls rarely get their voices heard, and during humanitarian crises, this neglect only becomes exacerbated," Plan International's regional program director for the Middle East, Colin Lee said, warning that "child marriage is on the rise because parents are so fearful for their daughters' safety. Few girls are able to go to school for the same reason, and far too many, report desperate feelings of isolation because of the restrictions placed on their freedom of movement by their parents."
Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world, including a recent influx of 1.5 million fleeing the conflict in Syria.
In April 2019, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that in Beirut alone there were 239,005 registered refugees among a total population of 2,200,000. Palestinian and Syrian refugees are the majority and some Palestinian families have been in Lebanon since 1948’s Nakba.