Safe haven 2.0 #8
There are cracks in the walls of our safe haven. Many newly arrived refugees lack knowledge and skills for safe and pleasant sex, the ability to resist sexual coercion, and an understanding of sexual freedoms in the Netherlands. This can endanger their well-being and that of others. That’s why Rutgers reaches for its toolkit.
Sexual ground rules
Puberty makes no allowances for human tragedy. That’s why sexuality education for young refugees is at least as important as for other children. This is a complex task for schools with new arrivals among their students, due to language differences, traumas and taboos. The teaching resource “Welcome to School”, developed by Pharos and Rutgers, provides support. The updated version includes increased attention for the division of roles between men and women.
If you don’t know the rules of the game, you can’t play by them. Education about pleasant and consensual sexual relationships and respect for different types of relationships is therefore essential. This is true for everyone in the Netherlands, and refugees are no exception. Together with the public health services and Pharos, we work in partnership with refugees to make our tried and tested methods accessible to them. We make sure that lessons at refugee centres and online are tailored to their language, backgrounds and needs.
Misery in misery
We are also concerned about refugees who are still in areas affected by crisis. More misery awaits them, as if bloodshed and displacement weren’t enough. Emergency situations lead to lawlessness and a lack of decent healthcare. As a result, people are highly at risk of rape, STIs and unwanted pregnancy. UNFPA describes these abuses in its annual State of the World Population, which we traditionally launch in the Netherlands. UNFPA calls on the international community to better prepare governments, organisations and citizens in vulnerable countries for future calamities. The Dutch government has already expressed its support for this recommendation.
“The health and rights of women and adolescents should not be treated like an afterthought in humanitarian response. ’’
“Refugees and asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable. They too have a right to information about sexual health, and access to support and advice when they have questions or problems.’’
In partnership with Dutch organisations for emergency relief and development cooperation, we are investigating possibilities to improve the sexual health and rights of people in areas affected by crisis.