Sexual and gender-based violence in the refugee context

Caption and Credit: 
Dassy with orphans that she fosters and her youngest daughter. A nurse by profession, Dassy, a single mother, provides peer counseling for survivors of gender based violence in Rwamwanja refugee settlement [UNHCR/Isaac Kasamani}

The phenomenon

  • Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is among the most grave protection concerns and priorities in Uganda refugee operation.
  • It is manifested in various forms including rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, early and forced marriages, denial of resources and harassment.
  • Violence occurred in the refugees' home country, during flight and in Uganda.
  • For many reasons, SGBV incidents remain seriously underreported. 
  • Since January 2016 more than 2,867 females and 227 male SGBV cases have been reported. 20% are children below the age of 18.  

Risks and causes

  • Intimate partner violence accounted for 65% of the reported incidents, with causes ranging from unemployment to disputes over food and other resources, to cultural norms.
  • Lack of meaningful engagement of adolescents and teenagers/youth including limitation in accessing education.
  • Inadequate safety in shelters (weak doors and no locks)
  • Inadequate lighting at household level and in communal places
  • Inadequate police capacity, including lack of female staff and lack of mobility and accommodation.
  • Obstacles in accessing justice

Ongoing interventions

  • All known SGBV survivors receive appropriate services including psycho-social counseling, medical care (and PEP as appropriate) and legal support as well as access to safe houses where it is deemed necessary.
  • Inter–agency referral pathways and standard operating procedures are in place to strengthen SGBV prevention and response mechanisms. 
  • SGBV information management mechanisms are in place to accurately reflect cases for monitoring and follow up.
  • Community awareness networks through community based structures are in place to create awareness as well as to enhance referrals at the community level.