The Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), a Mozambican NGO, has denounced in a report alleged sexual abuse of displaced women in Cabo Delgado, in the north of the country, in exchange for humanitarian aid, considering there was silence from the government and the United Nations on the matter.
“In all the houses we have entered, dozens and dozens, in many neighbourhoods, this issue has always been confirmed: in all of them, people knew about these kinds of cases,” the researcher Borges Nhamire, one of the co-authors of a report on displaced persons in the Cabo Delgado conflict, which was released on Monday, told Lusa.
The alleged abuses are committed by the local authorities, who have the power to draw up lists of displaced people to receive aid, the document states, in exchange for inclusion on the lists, local leaders demand sexual favours from vulnerable women and girls.
The situation was detected mainly in the districts of Pemba, the provincial capital, and less frequently in Nampula province and most of the more organised camps.
According to Borges Nhamire, the complaints that have been made by the displaced people have not had any consequences in punishing the offenders.
On the other hand, the CIP notes that government organisations and UN agencies have made the issue a taboo, instead of denouncing it in the light of day so that everyone would be aware of a zero-tolerance for sexual abuse.
“The issue has been treated as a big taboo by government authorities and UN agencies coordinating assistance to displaced people in Cabo Delgado. The abuse of women has never been reported by any UN agencies,” said the CIP publication.
Borges Nhamire told Lusa that the question was put to three UN organisations, the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and they have not responded, neither on this nor others, and it is not like these organisations not to respond”.
“The three opted for silence: we sent emails, letters, made phone calls and they never agreed to respond. The subject is being treated as taboo,” he said.
If the issue is not treated openly, the authors will think that they can, in the dark, abuse women and that there is no risk, he said, pointing out that the local context is one of the people who do not know the international laws, nor the limits of what they can or cannot do.
Nhamire acknowledged that the context is not easy.
The authorities allow NGOs to work as long as they do not contradict the good image of the state or government institutions and raising this issue would be jeopardising the good image. So many people do not talk about it.
This article is available in: Português