Despite abuse and violence, women and girls on the move have no choice but to keep going forward

A large number of women and girls decide to leave their home country in search of a better life. But according to a new report they are at great risk of experiencing traumatic violations such as rape, kidnapping, sexual exploitation and even death while on the move. The report calls for better protection of female refugees and migrants in origin, transit and destinations countries.
 
 

20.09.2018

It is violence, insecurity and discrimination that drives many women and girls to flee or migrate. But when doing so, they continue to face violation and abuse on the routes towards their destination.

This is the conclusion shown by one of the first and largest comparative studies based on more than 1000 interviews with female refugees and migrants from Afghanistan, East Africa and West Africa by the Mixed Migration Centre (MMC), hosted by the Danish Refugee Council.

The report shows that women and girls often migrate due to abuse and insecurity, but that they often face more violence and abuse on their risky journey. Often, they are left no choice but to these women and girls have no choice but to keep going forward in their search for finding safety for themselves and their families,” Secretary General of the Danish Refugee Council, Christian Friis Bach says.

Around half of the women face abuses and violations during their journey. And half of these women were exposed to multiple incidents. They include death, physical and sexual abuse, being asked for bribes, being kidnapped or held against their will, and robbery.

The risk of abuse is closely linked to the mode of travel and certain hotspots. Libya represents one of the biggest hotspots for violations, and human rights abuses here are acute. Several women and girls report about incidents of rape in detention centers or forced prostitution. Also, they are at risk of being trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation when looking for work to finance the rest of their journey. The report also highlights that women are much more vulnerable than men, for instance when traveling by foot for long distances. Women lagging experience threats from smugglers, and some even have guns pointed to their heads.

The interviews also demonstrate that only few women report that they had access to bathroom and washing facilities, blankets and sleeping bags, and clothes and shoes during their migration journey. And access to legal and medical assistance and psycho-social support were almost negligible.

Secretary General Christian Friis Bach calls for governments, UN agencies and NGOs to work together to improve the protection of women and girls on the move:

The volume of abuses faced by women and girls on the move highlights the need for protection and access to services. Most women don’t have the necessary access along their migrations journey. Only a collaborative call for protection will lead to increased access to protection services. We must and should do better for these women.”

The report outlines a series of recommendations on how to improve the information and protection to women on the move, including gender-based violence shelters and provision of maternal and child health and psycho-social and medical support. Read the entire report here 

Key figures

  • 44% of respondents experienced protection concerns during their journey (465 respondents)
  • 52% of that group were exposed to multiple incidents (240 respondents)
  • 53 % of women are not aware of the risk of migration.

About the report:

The report is based on a total of 1062 surveys amongst women from Afghanistan, Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Somalia.

It is the first piece of research drawn from 4Mi that compares women’s migration experiences across different regions as it compares Afghan women on the move with women from East and West Africa.

The aim of the report is to gain a better understanding of women’s migration experiences and their protection need.

The Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) was established in February 2018. It brings together various existing regional initiatives – hosted or led by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) – engaged in data collection, research, analysis and policy development on mixed migration issues into a new global network of mixed migration expertise. Through the Mixed Migration Monitoring Mechanism Initiative (4Mi) 120 monitors are collecting data on mixed migration in over 20 countries across different migration routes globally, conducting over 10,000 in-depth interviews with refugees and migrants on the move annually.