The UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict held a series of meetings with Lebanese officials Wednesday over issues facing women in conflict-ridden areas in the Middle East.
After her meeting with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Zainab Hawa Bangura said that she was touring the Middle East in order to form an understanding of the challenges faced by women in areas affected by conflict.
“So far I have visited Lebanon and Syria and I will continue my trip to Iraq, Jordan and Turkey,” she said in a statement released by Bassil’s media office.
Her meeting with the foreign minister involved a “frank discussion” on the conflict in Syria and the problems that affect women in the region, she said.
Bangura added that talks with Bassil helped her form a clearer understanding of the problem of sexual violence in the Middle East and expressed hopes that her next visit to Lebanon will carry solutions to the myriad of problems facing women.
The UN special representative also met with Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas, who noted his ministry’s dedication to issues relating to women and children in light of the mass influx of Syrian refugees.
"The ministry is cooperating with organizations and civil society groups to implement programs designed to meet the needs of these social groups,” he said in a statement released by his media office.
“These programs will include the establishment of reception centers for abused women and children,” he added.
Bangura also met with Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail Wednesday.
Women and children make up 80 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Female refugees who escaped the conflict in Syria to find sanctuary in Lebanon have experienced sexual harassment from employers, landlords and employees of local aid groups, according to a 2013 Human Rights Watch report.
The organization said it interviewed a dozen women who described being groped, harassed and pressured to have sex. They did not report the incidents to authorities for fear of reprisal by their abusers or because they might be arrested for not having valid papers, it said.
HRW called on Lebanese authorities and the United Nations to improve protection for female refugees and provide a mechanism to report harassment violations. It also urged donor countries to increase funding for the refugees to reduce their vulnerability to exploitation.
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