The international community has taken a strong stance against conflict-related sexual violence, deeming it a war crime. However, international actors are paying scant attention to sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV) in refugee settings. Urban refugee women and girls and those in refugee camps often grapple with SGBV in their countries of asylum, long after they have fled their homes and communities. Our research among refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo currently in Kenya and Uganda has unearthed a high incidence of SGBV against refugee women and girls. Research by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) indicates that one in five refugee and displaced women experience sexual violence. Many of the survivors often have no one to turn to for protection and resort to sex work and other risky means to survive.
In this policy brief, we examine the extent of the problem, identify obstacles to progress, and recommend actions governments and humanitarian organizations can take to better protect refugees. In short, we argue that refugee settlements are not safe spaces for refugee women. Humanitarian officials, governments, and the international
community must do more to address this problem.