Meng Legislation to Keep Women and Girls Safe in Refugee Camps Passes House

May 22, 2019
Press Release
Congresswoman’s measure would ensure needed safety improvements to refugee camp restrooms
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) that would make restrooms in refugee camps safer for women and girls has been passed by the House of Representatives.
The measure, entitled the Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act (H.R. 615), would require recipients of U.S. refugee and migration aid to provide safe and secure access to sanitation facilities, with a special emphasis on women and girls, and vulnerable populations. 
“Refugee camps should be safe havens for those who have been forced to flee their countries and that includes secure facilities for restrooms,” said Meng, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. “But unfortunately, many bathrooms in refugee camps do not provide appropriate safety protections. Many refugee camps lack adequate access to such facilities and often times the restrooms are mixed-sex, public, and without locks or well-lit paths. These conditions create a lack of privacy and dignity and make women and girls afraid to use the restrooms, fearing that they may be assaulted and subjected to violence while using the bathroom. These types of conditions are unacceptable. Nobody should have their safety jeopardized in order care for their most basic hygiene needs. My bill would finally combat this problem, and I’m pleased that the House is now addressing the issue.”
“Oftentimes those most affected by conflict are the most vulnerable among us,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), a cosponsor of the bill and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. “Driven from their war-torn homes, it’s important women and children find safety and security in the camps they seek refuge. This important legislation ensures that American foreign aid is targeted towards organizations that provide access to safe, clean facilities and basic hygiene needs. I applaud my colleague Congresswoman Meng for championing this important issue, and urge the Senate to take swift action on this common-sense legislation.”
Of the 42 million people who have had to flee their homes due to war, 80 percent are women and children, and at least 10 million are estimated to be girls and young women, according to a report by the Women’s Refugee Commission.
Meng’s legislation, which the Congresswoman introduced in January, is cosponsored by 42 other Members of Congress. The measure, which passed the House on Monday afternoon, must now be passed by the Senate. It has been endorsed by Amnesty International USA, Futures Without Violence, HIAS, Human Rights First, Jesuit Refugee Service, Refugees International and WaterAid International.