Giving Compass’ Take:
• Anja Parish explains how violence against women causes migration and how migration exposes women to violence.
• How can funders address gender-based violence as both a cause and problem of migration?
• Learn about the women of Syria, eight years into the crisis.
Each year, countless women and children flee violence at home and take an uncertain journey in the hope of finding safety in a new country. While many escape conflict zones or generalized human-rights abuses, some also run from more intimate forms of violence—namely, sexual and domestic violence perpetrated by men. Setting off on the journey is no guarantee of safety; many are vulnerable to gender-based abuse in transit and even at destination. Along some migrant routes, half or more of women surveyed reported experiencing sexual assault during the journey, and many take birth control to avoid becoming pregnant from rape.
The rise of gender-based violence stemming from conflict is correlated with the changing nature of conflict itself. In the past, wars pitted countries against one another and had distinct battlegrounds; today, conflicts are largely contained within a country’s borders and are increasingly waged against unarmed civilians. Rape is used as a deliberate military strategy to disrupt communities and instill fear, and in ethnic conflicts as a tool for both “cleansing” and social control. Modern conflicts disrupt traditional social structures, leading to an increased risk of gender violence. Ethnic differences, socioeconomic discrimination, and group rivalries can exacerbate these risks. Lack of economic opportunity in societies where males are traditionally the providers can also lead to increased violence at home.
Instances of rape are particularly common in conflict zones. More than 20,000 Muslim women were raped during the Bosnian War in the early 1990s, while an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, according to UNHCR. Further, 94 percent of households displaced during the decade-long Sierra Leone civil war reported at least one member experienced sexual assault. Ongoing armed conflicts reflect similar patterns: Upon their arrival in Tanzania, 23 percent of female Burundian refugees reported they had experienced gender-based violence, and mass rapes of relatives of government opponents or refugees are an element of the conflict in Burundi, according to the Women’s Refugee Commission. These figures are likely to be underreported, due to the stigma often assigned to survivors.
Read the full article about violence against women by Anja Parish at Migration Policy Institute.
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