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Lockdowns, Quarantines Put Refugee Women at Risk for Gender‑Based Violence: UN Refugee Agency

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Apr 21, 2020

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Refugee girls and women might be at risk of experiencing gender-based violence due to confinement policies, such as quarantines and lockdowns, put in place due to the Covid19 pandemic. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), restricted movement, lower community interaction, closure of most services, and a worsening economy all exacerbate the risk of intimate partner violence. This threat is particularly dangerous for refugee women and girls without documentation and a means to gain employment.

“Some may end up confined to their shelters and homes, trapped with their abusers without the opportunity to distance themselves or to seek in-person support… Others, including those without documentation or those who have lost precarious livelihoods, as a result of the economic devastation that COVID-19 has inflicted, may be forced into survival sex or child marriages by their families. Within the household, many women are also taking on increased burdens as caregivers,” Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at UN Refugee Agency, Gillian Triggs, said in a statement.


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Owing to the lockdown, both refugees who are at risk of violence and past survivors will have limited access to health and security services, including safe shelters that have been temporarily suspended, repurposed, or closed due to containment measures.

However, the UNHCR noted that refugee women themselves were at the forefront of responding to the threat of gender-based violence. They are informing members of their community about preventative and protective measures and helping survivors access specialized support.

According to Triggs, governments across the world must ensure that support for survivors of gender-based violence is deemed essential and remains accessible to refugees. This includes health services, mental health support, recourse to justice, and safe shelters.

“All women and girls have the right to a life free from all forms of violence. We must stand with displaced and stateless women and girls as we…urge all governments to put all women and girls’ safety first as they respond to the pandemic,” Triggs said.

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is the senior culture writer at The Swaddle, with an interest in cultural analysis, environment, and the science of mental health.  Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

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