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We met in Aceh realising the significance and challenges women face in the tsunami aftermath.

1. Gender discrimination and women’s human rights violations. Thousands of women and children in the affected countries still live in camps and other temporary facilities which lack adequate sanitation, clean water, health services and security. Government compensations have not reached them or are insufficient to restore their livelihoods. In Thailand, women are discriminated even in death: funeral expenses paid for men’s death are twice as much as that for women’s.

2. Women’s right to food is violated. People are on the verge of starvation getting one meal a day. The food rations provided are of very low quality. This affects health of children and pregnant, breast feeding and elderly women.

3. Women suffer from increased domestic violence in camps and temporary shelters, especially in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand as a result of increased alcoholism. There is inadequate protection provided by the police and camp administration because of the general perception of violence against women being a personal matter.

4. Children in camps and temporary shelters do not have access to education. Government scholarships are not sufficient to cover education costs. In Sri Lanka, Aceh and India schools are too far away from camps and transport is not provided.

5. Both temporary and permanent housing facilities are of low standards in design and construction and climatic conditions have not been taken into account. e.g. it is impossible to stay in tin shelters which heat up in the tropical sun. Facilities do not meet women’s needs: there are no kitchen and bathing facilities. In Sri Lanka, people remain uncertain regarding permanent housing. The Sri Lanka Government’s policy on buffer zone implies that fishermen and others are denied assistance in any rebuilding activities within 100-200 meters from the shoreline. However, hotels and tourist resorts near the sea have been restored. In Indonesia, similar restrictions prevail but some communities went back to their villages to rebuild their houses even though it means they will not receive government assistance. In Thailand, some permanent housing have ownership problems: houses are built by sponsors on the rented land or on the land owned by someone else so sometime in the future resettled people will face eviction.

6. The tsunami exacerbated women’s access to land. Women in Aceh and India do not have ownership rights to land registered to their husband and father’s names as women are not recognised as head of household. In Sri Lanka, joint ownership to land remains an unresolved issue in relation to post-tsunami reallocation of land. In Thailand, the tsunami has created new land conflicts with big businesses claiming the land of entire communities, especially of minorities, who have lived on that land for several generations but never had the land titles.

7. Jobs and livelihoods: In all the affected countries, women lost their jobs and livelihood sources. The governments have failed to respond effectively and survivors have to rely on NGO support.

8. Caste and ethnic discrimination: In India, entire communities of Dalit (so-called untouchables) and Irula (indigenous people) have been left out of relief and rehabilitation efforts. They have not been receiving any assistance from the Indian Government as they are not seen as directly affected by the tsunami although they have lost their livelihood sources.

9. Plight of Burmese migrants in Thailand. Burmese migrants in Thailand have been completely ignored by both Burmese and Thai Governments in the tsunami aftermath. In the immediate aftermath they could not recover dead bodies of their family members for fear of getting arrested as migrants. Since they have lost their registration/id cards they do not have access to government assistance and health services. They do not have income generating capacity of their own as migrants have to rely on their employers to give them jobs who have lost their businesses in the tsunami.

10. Armed conflict situation in Aceh and Sri Lanka exacerbates human rights situation. Children recruitment in Sri Lanka has increased after the tsunami. Presence of armed forces inside the camps has increased the vulnerability of women to violence and threatens their security rather than provides protection. The military hinder free movement of people and distribution of relief.

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