A research conducted by humanitarian organization Plan International recently revealed the alarming rate of sexual harassment and forced marriages among refugee girls in Beirut.
According to the report, more than half of the young refugee girls living in Lebanon's capital said they've faced sexual violence and harassment. The study, based on surveys of 400 girls aged 10 to 19, reported the many threats burdening young teen girls and women in Beirut. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed said they felt "unsafe if they traveled around the city alone during the day." Nearly all, 90 percent to be exact, said they feared for their safety while out of their shelters at night.
Those interviewed are based in newly founded camps that house Syrian refugees in addition to long-standing Palestinian ones.
Launched in the run-up to World Refugee Day on June 20, Plan International's latest report calls on "governments, the United Nations and civil society actors in Lebanon to take action to support refugee girls."
In a statement on the matter, the organization's regional program director for the Middle East, Colin Lee, said:
"Adolescent girls rarely get their voices heard, and during humanitarian crises, this neglect only becomes exacerbated."
"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," he added.
The report features heartbreaking stories and personal testaments
The survey asked interviewees what safety means to them, whether it's something they feel when inside their homes, and how welcoming their respective neighborhoods really are. The refugee girls were also asked about access to education and on the types of paid and unpaid labor available to them.
Testimonies from the majority of girls interviewed revealed the alarming rate of harassment that exists in their communities and the tragic effect it has on their lives.
One 18-year-old Syrian girl from Bourj Al Barajneh told interviewers: "A girl can't go out at night after dinner because of harassment. We go out with friends or family but very rarely."
Others said they are not allowed to walk outside alone or leave their homes even in daylight because their families worry about them being harassed.
"A lot can happen to a girl by herself on the road. There are lots of men around," a 14-year-old girl based in Shatila camp explained.
Forced marriages were found to be prevalent among refugee girls in Beirut, with underage marriages becoming the norm in their communities.
The majority of girls interviewed admitted that they're out of school, while others said they do not get any sort of quality education.
Refugees in Lebanon at a glance
Palestinian refugee camps have existed in the country for decades but those who live in them continue to face discrimination on every level.
In recent years, the war in Syria forced over a million refugees to flee to the country and this number includes 500,000 children.
Given the rise in the influx of refugees and the Lebanese government's inability to deal with their needs, these populations are now facing dire circumstances. The currently implemented refugee crisis system in Lebanon is failing many, leaving children out of school and unprotected young girls and women at risk of rape, sexual abuse, violence, and sexual harassment.