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Assessing Of The Internally Displaced Persons Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 3599 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are those who are forcibly uprooted within the boundaries of their own countries as a result of violent conflicts; tend to be among the most desperate populations (Egeland, 2004; OCHA, 1999). According to Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) 2010, the number of internally displaced persons uprooted from their homes by armed conflicts, generalized violence and human rights abuses across the world stood at 27.1 million people by 2009. The most affected region with 11.6 million internally displaced persons was Africa, where Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Somalia along with Iraq and Colombia stood among those countries which comprised over half of the world’s internally displaced persons. South and Southeast Asia was the region with largest relative increase in number of IDPs in 2009 where some 4.3 million people were estimated to be internally displaced mainly as a result of existing conflicts that escalated and majority of them were trapped in situations of protracted displacement. These figures are 23 per cent year-on-year increase from 3.5 million to 4.3 million. These estimations merely reflect the severity of the issue that in fact is much bigger in its extent. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) therefore pose an enormous challenge to the international community, national governments and humanitarian organizations as internal displacement has a devastating impact on not only the IDPs’ own families but also on the entire society (IDMC/NRC, 2009; Holmes, 2008; Women Refugee Commission, 1998).

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Displaced women and children constitute an overwhelming majority of the refugee population (Ni Aolain, 2009; Ganguly-Scrase & Vogl, 2008; UN-ESCWA, 2006; UNHCR, 2008; Kaapanda & Fenn, 2006), yet there is little recognition that forced displacement is a gendered phenomenon (Behera, 2006). Majority of these women flee within their State territories and thus do not receive the similar protection and assistance that is provided to the refugees who cross international borders (Al Gasseer et al., 2004).

Displacement has a differential impact on both women and men, which can differ at various stages of crisis (El Jack, 2003). These differences prevail on account of women being at the subordinate position, socio-cultural norms, unequal power relations and women’s role as the primary caretaker of the household and family (Ni Aolain, 2009). IDP women take care of their families and uphold cultural norms, even when they are abandoned by their husbands and thus excluded from the traditional protection, left homeless and without any valuable assets or economically productive work, and without any family or community support (Ganguly-Scrase & Vogl, 2008).

Internally displaced persons are not a homogeneous category of people (IDMC/NRC, 2009; Kaapanda & Fenn, 2006). They have specific needs, vulnerabilities, and coping strategies based, among other things, on their age, sex, ethnicity and membership of a social group (IDMC, 2009). Even displacement does not affect all women the same way, for example women belonging to ethnic minorities in Sudan were marginalized due to their minority status, which constituted an overwhelming number of casualties among them due to war and its consequences (El Jack, 2002).

Displacement affects women in multi-faceted ways, it results in serious security risks, losing close family members, psychological atrocities, sexual violence, deterioration of social safety net and reduction in the already limited economic opportunities (Women and Forced Migration, 2006; El Jack, 2002). In the course of displacement, the experience of leaving their homes and villages, loss of social capital and living in an unfamiliar and stressful environment, surrounded by complete strangers, causes extreme hardships to women (Women and Forced Migration, 2006). Displacement also results in food scarcity due to removal from sources of income and livelihood. Furthermore, inequalities in aid distribution place women and girls more susceptible to malnutrition (UN-ESCWA, 2006). The reduced access to resources and limited opportunities for employment makes it extremely difficult for women to cope with household responsibilities (El-Bushra, 2003; El Jack, 2002). It is also evident that women often take the back seat in terms of relief and rehabilitation. In the first instance, national policies on relief and resettlement do not acknowledge the specific needs and vulnerabilities of women (Women and Forced Migration, 2006). In the second instance, humanitarian organizations often disenfranchise women by relegating them to the status of victim: this is further reinforced by giving them little say in decision making with regard to aid distribution and rehabilitation (Banerjee in Ganguly-Scrase & Vogl, 2008). Women also lack access to essential reproductive health services due to rigid socio-cultural norms, restrictions on their mobility, lack of health care infrastructure and insecurity (Women and Forced Migration, 2006).

1.2 Conflict Induced Internal Displacement in Balochistan

Balochistan comprises almost 44 per cent of Pakistan’s geographical territory with 770 km long coastline alone with the Arabian Sea (Andley, 2006; ADB, 2005) and straddles Iran and Afghanistan (Grare, 2006). The enormity of its size, contrasts strikingly with its sparse population of 7.1 million people, constituting only 5.1 per cent of the total (ADB, 2004).

Balochistan holds substantial portion of Pakistan’s energy and mineral resources; accounting for 36 per cent of its total gas production. It is also resourced with huge reserves of copper, gold, platinum, silver, aluminum, uranium, coal and is a potential transit zone for a pipeline transporting natural gas from Iran and Turkmenistan to India. Balochistan coast provides Pakistan with an exclusive economic zone potentially rich in oil, gas, and minerals spread over approximately 180,000 square kilometers giving Balochistan considerable strategic importance (Grare, 2006). Despite being the richest province in terms of energy and mineral resources, Balochistan remains underdeveloped and economically destitute among other provinces (AITPN, 2007). The incidence of poverty is pronounced in the province, characterized by inadequacy of income, low quality of life, denial of opportunities and choices. Among others, lack of access to basic services such as health, education, safe drinking water, sanitation and poor quality of roads and transportation also account for some of the critical issues. Similarly, literacy rates especially for rural women are very low. Additionally, widespread leakages in the governance system, lack of accountability of public institutions, inability of governments to deliver social and economic goods further marginalized the destitute sections of life (ADB, 2004).  

Since the partition of India in 1947, Balochistan has been the centre of ethno-nationalist struggle resulting in violent revolts between separatists and the federal government due to its forcible annexation with the current Pakistan (IDMC/NRC, 2009; Zambelis, 2009). Baloch militants have staged several insurgencies against the State for greater political control over their administrative affairs and larger dividend from local development projects and the exploitation of natural resources (IDMC/NRC, 2009). These resentments persist even today because of the central government’s suppression of nationalistic aspirations; the absence of economic and social development in Balochistan and the exclusion of the provincial authorities and local population from decisions on major regional projects (Grare, 2006). On the other hand, the federal government views the violence in Balochistan as the work of ‘miscreants’ led by few militant tribal leaders who do not represent the Baloch majority and whose efforts are aimed at maintaining their hold over tribes and tribal system from where they garner support, power and wealth and undermining the development efforts led by the government (Dunne, 2006).

Balochistan enmeshed in a rash of violence in continuum with the decades-old conflict that has flared up once again over the issue of the rape of a medical doctor associated with Pakistan Petroleum Limited apparently by an army officer in Sui tehsil of the Dera Bugti district in January 2005 (AITPN, 2007). The rape of a doctor in a secure hospital precinct provoked riots in Balochistan and a large scale tribal uprising. However, the Balochistan crisis intensified after Pakistani government launched full-scale military operation against the Baloch nationalists in the region following the firing of eight rockets at a paramilitary base on the outskirts of the town of Kohlu, during the visit of then President General Pervez Musharraf (IDMC/NRC, 2009; AITPN, 2007). The current wave of violence is an offshoot of the decades of suppression of the Baloch people by the federal government (Dunne, 2006). Though the dispute in Balochistan is essentially political, the Pakistani military and the Baloch tribal militants have always sought a military solution for their disagreements (Human Rights Watch, 2008).

Hundreds of thousands of people fled to safer places as a result of military operation and aerial bombardment in Marri and Bugti tribal areas (AHRC, 2006). Over 200,000 people about 90 per cent of population of Dera Bugti and Kohlu districts (majority with women and children) were forcibly driven out of their homes following the outbreak of hostilities between the warring tribesmen and the law-enforcement agencies in the early summer of 2005 (IDMC, 2009). According to International Crisis Group (ICG), at least 84,000 people have been displaced by the conflict in Dera Bugti and Kohlu districts since December 2005 when military operations began. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has estimated that in all, 100,000 people were displaced in the Dera Bugti and Kohlu districts and among those nearly 40,000 have returned to their homes in 2009, while more than 40,000 are still displaced. According to government of Balochistan there were 1200 households who were displaced from Tehsil Dera Bugti, 800 from Tehsil Sui and 1300 from Tehsil Phalawagh. It makes total of 3300 households who were displaced from Dera Bugti district alone. However, these estimations vary and it is unclear how many Marri and Bugti have actually been displaced after the conflict has escalated in their areas.

Despite adverse state of affairs, there is no single officially recognized IDP camp in the entire province of Balochistan. The displaced population is scattered on the outskirts of either Naseerabad, Jaffarabad, Sibi, Bolan and Quetta districts of Balochistan or displaced to the Sindh and Punjab provinces (IDMC/NRC, 2009; AHRC, 2006). They have been living in deplorable conditions in temporary settlements and are deprived of adequate shelter, safe drinking water, sanitation, food, schooling, health care and other basic necessities (AITPN, 2009). The government’s response to IDPs in Balochistan has remained halfhearted. Moreover, the absence of national policy or institutional arrangements to cater the needs of internally displaced persons in conflicted zones of Balochistan is the main obstacle in recovery and rehabilitation of the IDPs. International and national humanitarian agencies including UN have denied access by government to grapple with the IDP crisis in Balochistan due to security reasons (IDMC/NRC, 2009). In a speech to the parliament in December 2009, although the Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani acknowledged the difficult situation of displaced persons and announced $12 million for their return and rehabilitation as part of the Balochistan Support Package. However the package was rejected by the Baloch nationalists arguing that “it is too little and too late”. Indeed, no practical steps have been taken further to reconcile aggrieved groups and bring them in the mainstream political landscape (IDMC, 2010).

1.3 Problem Statement

Conflict displacement exposes families and communities to intense suffering and traumatic experiences of enormous loss of life, loss of social fabric, gross impoverishment through the loss of livestock and land, erosion of cultural values, beliefs and practices, sexual violence and psycho-social distress (El-Bushra, 2003). On the other hand, it has a long term social impact whereby the prolonged suffering and appalling conditions force women to take steps and responsibilities in the ‘public’ domain that traditionally did not form part of their ‘role’ (Rivero, 2006). Simultaneously, it comes with an opportunity to ‘renegotiate’ gendered power structures, patriarchal norms and notions of masculinity and femininity (El-Bushra, 2003; Moser & Clark, 2001). Ni Aolain (2009) suggests that conflict may have hidden opportunity to empower women and trigger the structural and social transformations in face with the new set of social, economic and political realities of the post conflict arena.

Women and men experience the uprooting, displacement and reconstruction of life in entirely different manners (Moser & Clark, 2001). Although women are disproportionately disadvantaged and the initial impact of displacement is more severe for women than men; women tend to adapt more quickly to their new environment and search for new spaces through informal support mechanisms in order to meet their family needs. Men because of inaccessibility to economic resources, limited opportunities for employment and their huge dependence on formal institutional support networks, adapt the new situation at much slower pace (Moser & Clark, 2001, El-Bushra, 2003). It often results in working women; bearing the main financial burden of providing for the family and dependent men taking up the responsibility for children and domestic chores. Conflict undoubtedly provides greater responsibilities to women and with that the possibility to exert greater leverage in the decision-making processes (El-Bushra, 2003). While Rivero (2006) argues that the public role of women places great pressure on women because it is socially unacceptable and women run the risk of being stigmatized and marginalized by their families and communities. Women’s taking up greater financial responsibilities, entering occupations which were previously the preserve of men and involving in the decision making process at the household and community level may no bring long-term changes in gender ideologies rather reinforce gender value systems (El-Bushra, 2003).

Research studies carried out by El-Bushra (2003) highlight that ‘gender role reversal’ during conflict and displacement may not combine with an ideological shift, women status outside the household may remain subordinate in relation to men. As men have lost access to resources, assets and with that their conventional role of ‘breadwinner’ or provider; men may feel more difficulty to adjust with the new roles and men’s inability to meet gendered expectations may result into frustration, humiliation and sense of failure. Patriarchal norms which establish ideological basis are at the heart of the issue.

This research is significantly relevant to explore whether conflict displacement has changed accepted notions of masculinity and femininity among internally displaced persons of the Bugti tribe of the Balochistan province? Whether changes in gender roles brought about by displacement provide opportunities for changes in ideological basis? If yes than how? if no than why? There is a knowledge gap in the current scholarship on gender dimension of displacement with regard to Bugti tribe of Balochistan. The current study attempts to fill this gap while raising following research questions:

1.4 Research Questions

How this conflict forced people to move? What is the pattern of conflict induced internal displacement?

What are the changes in survival strategies of both women and men after displacement?

Whether changes in survival strategies account for changes in gender roles? If yes then how?

1.5 Objectives of the Study

1.5.1 General Objective

The core objective of this research study is to explore the impact of conflict induced internal displacement on survival strategies and how changes in survival strategies account for changes in gender roles among displaced persons of the Bugti tribe in district Jaffarabad of the Balochistan province.

1.5.2 Specific Objectives

In order to attain the general objective of this research study, several specific objectives have been developed. The specific objectives include:

To analyze the migration pattern of conflict displacement;

To study the changes in survival strategies of both women and men after displacement;

To examine how changes in survival strategies account for changes in gender roles.

1.6 Rationale of the Study

Women and children with their numerical dominance constitute 80 per cent of the world’s refugee population; their overwhelming dominance alone justifies a critical interrogation (Kaapanda & Fenn, 2006). Despite that, where the term ‘gender’ appears, its usage often implies that women and girls are predominantly victims, while men are depicted as perpetrators. The term should not be used in such a limited fashion; it should allow researchers to see women and men as ‘actors’ who function in a variety of roles and examine how shifts into non-traditional roles affect power balances in the course of displacement (UNDP, 2002).

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Though, there is growing scholarship on the plight of the displaced; more attention needs to be paid to women’s experiences. The recognition that forced displacement is a gendered phenomenon is fairly a recent understanding. Women’s experiences as internally displaced persons are lesser known, particularly in the context of South Asia. There are only few scholars who have dealt at length on this problem and investigated the impact of conflict displacement on gender roles in the context of South-Asia and there is hardly any monograph available that has focused on this issue particularly in the context of Pakistan. The subject explicitly deserves in-depth investigation, which this research study would try to stimulate and attempt to traverse this gap in the literature.

1.7 Scope of the study

This research study aims to describe the experiences of women and men in course of conflict displacement. It seeks to identify the possible link between changes in survival strategies and gender roles, given that the nature of the subject under investigation is highly sensitive, deeply personal and politically risky. The significance of this study is also highlighted by the fact that it incorporates gender analysis in social and cultural setting and employs gender as an analytical tool in order to comprehend the wider social relations. “Gender as a unit of analysis would help to view the lives of women and men within the context of displacement. It illustrates that how women experience displacement” (Kaapanda & Fenn, 2006).

1.8 Limitations of the study

The study was carried out only in one district, due to time, human resource, and financial constraints. The findings may be non-representative and only illustrative of the target segments of the study areas visited and therefore cannot be generalized for the entire district or province. It was often problematic to identify internally displaced persons because there were no officially recognized IDP camps in the study area, while the displaced persons were scattered into makeshift camps. When this study was conducted, it was harvesting season in most parts of the district and IDPs were mobile due to their engagement in agricultural labor. Their access was difficult due to their continuous mobility, sensitive nature of the issue, tribal system, socio-cultural norms, government’s security restrictions and emerging hostilities towards alien others stemming from changes in the political climate in recent years. On the other hand, socially depressed IDPs were reluctant to talk to outsiders due to apprehension of the torture either from tribal head or government’s security agencies. Furthermore, there were many surveys carried out but nothing has been changed in their life realities; gaining their trust was critical in such a situation. It was also challenging to have direct access to women and collect information from them due to rigid socio-cultural norms and customs. In order to tackle this problem the researcher got the help of his younger sister to have access to women.

1.9 Roadmap

This research study is organized into six chapters. Chapter one presents an introduction to this study. Chapter two provides a synthesis of the relevant literature. Chapter three describes research design and methods. Chapter four sketches the historic roots of crisis in Balochistan. Chapter five unfolds results of this study and presents a debate over the findings. Chapter six summarizes the whole discussion and concludes with recommendations for further research.


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