“The words ‘rape’ or ‘sexual violence’ cannot fully translate the horror I see hundreds of thousands of women living through,” said Dr. Denis Mukwege, Founder and Medical Director of the Panzi Hospitlal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The kind of violence Dr. Mukwege describes is all too common in parts of the world affected by conflict, but violence also often occurs in domestic settings around the world. Gender-based violence (GBV)—violence against a person due to their gender—includes but is not limited to sexual exploitation, abuse, early or forced marriage, female genital cutting, and intimate partner or domestic violence. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to these forms of violence during conflict and displacement. As social structures and support systems break down, sexual violence tends to increase. The proximity to military or armed personnel has long been associated with increased sexual violence and abuse, although the perpetrators can include members of the victim’s own community and aid workers themselves.
The risk for gender-based violence is greatest when women and girls are uprooted from their homes and communities and displaced. Women who suffer such violence face long-lasting emotional and psychological consequences. That’s why it so important to take steps to protect women and girls from sexual violence and to ensure survivors have access to medical care from the very onset of an emergency.
- The Women’s Refugee Commission advocates for protection against sexual violence and treatment for survivors. The minimum standards for sexual and reproductive health care as outlined in the MISP (an international standard of care) call for measures to protect affected populations and to ensure survivors are able to access medical care including: emergency contraception, postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV infection and psychosocial counselling. This minimum level of care should be available from the earliest stages of a humanitarian crisis.
- The Women’s Refugee Commission is working with partners along the Thai-Burma border on a pilot project using a community-based model of postrape care—where women and girls receive support and services from community members. We are examining whether this type of care is safe and feasible in a humanitarian setting where insecurity and other barriers hinder access to health facilities.
We also address prevention of gender-based violence through our livelihoods program and initiatives to invest in displaced adolescent girls.
Related Reports and Tools
- Interagency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Settings (IAWG on RH in Crises), 2010
- Inter-Agency Standing Committee Decision Tree Diagram for Choosing a Cooking Fuel Strategy in Acute Emergencies and Matrix on Agency Roles and Responsibilities for Ensuring a Coordinated, Multi-Sectoral Fuel Strategy in Humanitarian Settings, 2009
- Inter-Agency Standing Committee Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings: Focusing on Prevention of and Response to Sexual Violence, 2005
- Gender-based Violence Tools Manual: For Assessment, Program Design, and Monitoring & Evaluation, 2004
- If Not Now, When? Addressing Gender-based Violence in Refugee, Internally Displaced and Post-Conflict Settings, 2002