Gender based violence


On the 30th anniversary of the campaign for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, there’s been a global surge in domestic violence, child marriages, trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse since March. One in five refugee or internally displaced women has faced sexual violence, and the situation continues to worsen globally. A lethal mix of confinement, deepening poverty and economic duress is unleashing a renewed wave of violence against refugee, displaced and stateless women and girls. To tackle the crisis, the UN has called for funding to be scaled up for grassroots projects that focus on prevention and helping victims of gender-based violence. These include the Myanmar Ethnic Women (’s) Refugee Organization where refugee women have joined forces to overcome abuse, reinforcing their role as strong protectors of their families and communities. There is need for such local, refugee-led projects have become even greater during the COVID-19 pandemic, as lockdowns have taken away refugees’ often precarious livelihoods, heightening tensions in households and making it more difficult for international agencies to deliver support services. UNHCR issued the alert after recording increases in gender-based violence in at least 27 countries.
In the Central African Republic it warned that one gender-based violence incident is recorded every hour. And in Colombia, similar incidents affecting Venezuelan refugees and migrants have increased by 40 per cent over the first three- quarters of the year. The financial stress of COVID-19 and a lack of food in households during the pandemic have put women at greater risk from violence at the hands of their partners.
This is the case on the Thai-Myanmar border, where refugee women who were already running support services and safe houses for survivors of gender-based violence asked the UN agency for funding, to provide food to families who had lost work owing to the pandemic’s economic impact. Reaffirming its own commitment to addressing gender-based violence across its operations, UNHCR launched an institution-wide policy on GBV prevention, risk mitigation and response, in October. From Afghanistan, Colombia, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and beyond, the deleterious impact of conflict, COVID-19 and displacement has been felt acutely by women and girls. Since March last year, we have reported a global surge in domestic violence, child marriages, trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse as a result of the pandemic. Some hard-won gains in advancing gender equality have also been eroded. Addressing gender-based violence requires a concerted response involving national authorities, humanitarian partners, civil society, donors and forcibly displaced women, girls, men and boys themselves.
Forcibly displaced and stateless people must also be included in all national responses to gender-based violence. Survivors must be supported to heal and recover, and perpetrators must be brought to justice. Funding for humanitarian programmes that combat gender-based violence including women and girls’ empowerment projects as well as response services for survivors – has to be scaled up. Support must especially be channeled to those who work on the front lines including displaced women-led organizations and groups. Ending gender-based violence requires action to match rhetoric. The Global Compact on Refugees, affirmed by the UN General Assembly at the end of 2018, included commitments by States to support gender equality and refugee women’s leadership, but translating those commitments into actions and predictable resources remains a work in progress.
In some places, there’s an idea that the only way you can address gender-based violence is to parachute in Western-trained experts, whereas refugee women themselves can respond.