Libyan rape victims imprisoned and brainwashed

// 28 February 2006

Rape victims in Libya are being confined in jail-like conditions and subjected to brainwashing attempts, according to Human Rights Watch.

These so-called “social rehabilitation” centres sound horrific in their own right, but more worrying is the fact that instead of being protected by their families and the authorities, rape victims are being ostracised and seen as the criminal.

Libyan authorities are holding many women and girls in these facilities who have committed no crime, or who have completed a sentence. Some are there for no reason other than that they were raped, and are now ostracized for staining their families’ ‘honor’. Officials transferred the majority of these women and girls to these facilities against their will, while those who came voluntarily did so because no genuine shelters for victims of violence exist in Libya.

‘These facilities are far more punitive than protective,’ said Farida Deif, Middle East and North Africa researcher for the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch and author of the report. ‘How can they be called shelters when most of the women and girls we interviewed told us they would escape if they could?�’

‘Social rehabilitation’ facilities have a distinctly prison-like character. The women and girls sleep in locked quarters and are not allowed to leave the gates of the compound. The custodians sometimes subject them to long periods of solitary confinement, occasionally in handcuffs, for trivial reasons like ‘talking back’. They are tested for communicable diseases without their consent upon entry, and most are forced to endure invasive virginity examinations. Some residents are as young as 16, but authorities provide no education, except weekly religious instruction.

And some horrific testimonials from the report:

It is as if we’re criminals even though we didn’t do anything wrong.

A woman held at the Social Welfare Home for Women in Tajoura, Tripoli, May 4

A man raped me on the street on August 8, 2004… I went directly to the center in Tarhouna, because my brother would kill me if he found out. I went directly from the center to the social welfare home. The prosecutor called my parents. He told them my story. They visit me but they won’t officially receive me.

A woman held at the Social Welfare Home for Women in Tajoura, Tripoli, May 4

My mother died in a car crash when I was two. My father married a Moroccan woman. We didn’t understand each other. We had lots of problems. She’d hit and insult us. Eventually my father kicked me out. He gave me a ticket to visit my relatives. I worked in a restaurant. I made clean money. I didn’t smoke or take drugs. A year later, my father came to pick me up because people were talking. The prosecutor told me that I could either come here or go home with my father.

A woman held at the Social Welfare Home for Women in Tajoura, Tripoli, May 4

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