A reporter friend once told me, “Every night, these young women take refuge in newspaper kiosks on street sidewalks to get some night rest because the booths are inactive at nights. But this comes at the cost of having sexual relations with the owner of the stand.
Every year, a research is published about these girls which pricks our conscience when you learn that last year more women opted to leave their home to flee poverty, parental violence, aimlessness of parents, transgressions of rape by father or brother, or the pain of addicted or imprisoned parents.
Sometimes shelters and even prisons are filled with these young women, while at other times they are emptied of them. In the words of Homayun Hashemi, the head of the Welfare Organization told Tehran Emrouz (Tehran Today) newspaper, “Most of the capacity of these shelters for young women who have fled their homes are currently not occupied.”
The commander of Tehran’s police also claims that his force can round up all the women who have fled their homes or are on the streets within two years!
But what does the police intend to do with these women after rounding them up? What plans and programs does it have to return them to a healthy and sane life? The negative and suspicious view that government agencies have regarding non-governmental organizations and the rejection of citizen participation in containing social ills turns responsible and committed individuals who are willing to provide assistance and friendly help into mere spectators who lack the right to get involved in social issues.
NGOs whose focus is education, increasing awareness and peaceful negotiations with state institutions, are banned from engaging in any activity because once they learn of the details of the social ills, they will be catapulted into the seat of the questionnaires and will demand answers from authorities and the government. Governments in Iran basically view NGOs as their rivals who should never be allowed to be present.
During the last two days, social ills have been under strong influence of political events and fads. This vulnerability has made social activists, journalists, etc make demands, write on social issues and highlight government’s failures. But in most situations they lack the recognized right to act.
The government’s sporadic and intermittent policies and measures have failed to institute a comprehensive policy, based on experience and professional tools because state agencies refrain from utilizing non-government specialists. Because of this, any efforts that are made by governments, everything is begun from scratch, as if the problem never existed and solutions have not been thought through or tested.
In conclusion, dis-harmony among government agencies, absence of the use of the public, disregard of presented solutions and options by NGOs, absence of supportive laws and effective institutions in embracing these young women, including the absence of safe houses are among the many factors that endanger the conditions of vulnerable women. Every year in summer, we witness a rise of 15 to 20 percent in the number of these women. Every year this problem is exacerbated, because governments believe they are supermen and monopolize any involvement while negating the inclusion of the public. Government policies fail every year and the crisis is deepened, hurting the most vulnerable sectors of society first but then including the middle class, both of which feel the heavy and breaking weight of unemployment and inflation on their backs.