Amidst Haiti Disaster, Women’s Groups Seek to Deny Relief to Men

by W.F. Price on January 14, 2010

This week’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, which struck near Port au Prince, has led to countless tragedies on the impoverished island, and is a disaster that may rival the recent Sichuan quake in China. The damage struck indiscriminately, killing young and old, rich and poor, and man and woman alike.

However, some relief groups have decided that women deserve more aid, and have come up with a number of reasons why men should be left to die from injuries and disease while women get preferential treatment.

Quoted in Salon.com in an article titled Why “women and children first” persists, Elaine Enarson (probably a Swedish woman), cofounder of the Gender and Disaster Network (“Calling for a gendered approach in disaster risk reduction”), explains why men are to be excluded:

Women in general will be in need of “hygiene supplies, continued access to birth control/reproductive health services”

[...]

Women “are central actors in family and community life,” says Enarson, and are more likely to know “who in the neighborhood most needs help — where the single mothers, women with disabilities, widows and the poorest of the poor live.”

Another women’s relief program, MADRE, has joined the relief effort to help women only, and is employing a similar rationale for doing so, stating:

“Women are often more integrated and more aware of the vulnerabilities of their communities.”

Besides these questionable assumptions, and leaving out the fact that a large number of men are bound to become single fathers as a result of their wives dying in the quake, Enarson takes it a step further, saying that providing relief to women only is a means to prevent rape and domestic violence:

They are “at increased risk of gender-based violence, especially domestic violence and rape but also forced marriage at earlier ages” due to their increased dependence on men for protection and support…

So now when men provide women with protection and support they are suspected rapists, child molesters and batterers? Are these strange, foreign women more trustworthy than Haitian girls’ fathers, brothers and grandfathers? I try to refrain from inserting my opinion when I am writing these news pieces, but Ms. Enarson is making one of the most offensive insinuations possible with the above statement, and she is dead wrong. It is matriarchal societies where women cannot rely on men for support in which women face the most danger.

Women's groups: this man endangers daughter by supporting her

That these women’s groups are heading to a disaster area with the same anti-male agenda with which we are so familiar should be cause for outrage.

It is not clear whether such discrimination in the wake of disaster is legal in Haiti. In any event, if men are needlessly dying because these women’s groups are hoarding supplies for women only, the Haitian government should send troops in to seize the supplies and distribute them equally to needy men and women alike. That would be a true act of mercy.

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