“Women and girls face more hardships as refugees,” noted Muna Baig, Director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) echoing the sentiment of researchers and policy makers who are working with refugees in Pakistan.
The women refugees suffer “rape, economic hardships, and [the uncertainties of] travelling and living alone in an unsafe and new country,” says Ms Baig in the context of an ongoing nationwide consultation for internally displaced persons (IDP) and refugees - especially women.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Pakistan is host to the second largest number of international refugees. Military actions against the Taliban have also resulted in a large number of displaced people from Federally Administered Tribal areas or FATA (recently merged into a province).
The consultation on Human Rights Violations against IDPs and Refugee women and girls from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Federally Adminsitrated Tribal Areas (FATA) (now part of KP) and Gilgit Baltistan was held recently by the HRCP with support of the Friedrich Nauman Foundation for Freedom Pakistan.
There, the problem of insufficient data and the many problems facing women IDPs from FATA, Gilgit Baltistan and also Afghan Refugees came up. “Where is the research and documentation on the trauma of these women?” asked prominent Pakistani human rights activist Tahira Abdullah who complained that no government report has focused on women refugees and IDPs, and government agencies have yet to address the lack of services.
Senator Farhatullah Babar agreed to the need for sound data so that a foreign funding policy for IDP improvement could be designed: “We need to have sound data about the number of refugees in Pakistan. Based on this data we should demand financial support from the global community”.
The FATA Research Center has conducted studies on the psychological impact of displacement. Researcher Irfan Uddin says “6% to 10% of IDPs and refugee women in FATA suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.”
The conclusion of Senator Farhat Ullah Babar was bleak: “If we don’t address the issues of women refugees and the IDPs, this is not only a lost opportunity for the government, but can also potentially give more flame to radicalisation in their families”.