Gender-based violence

United Nations appeals to European countries to better protect female refugees

(ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

A joint report by three U.N. aid agencies is calling on European countries to better protect refugee and migrant women and girls on the move, as they are at increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence. The United Nations refugee agency, the U.N. Population Fund and the Women’s Refugee Commission said many of the women had faced gender-based sexual violence in their country of origin, along the way to Europe or in their first place of asylum. “Many women and girls travelling on their own are entirely exposed, deprived of their family or community to protect them,” Director of UNHCR’s Bureau for Europe, Vincent Cochetel said. “And even those traveling with family are often vulnerable to abuse. Often they are not reporting crimes and thus not receiving the support they need. Some women have even told us they have married out of desperation.”

The report accuses governments, aid groups and the European Union of failing to either prevent or properly respond to such attacks. For example, they say that despite efforts by the UNHCR and partners to provide well-lit, gender-segregated shelter, many lack safe and private washing facilities, exposing them to further risk. “The health and rights of victims of wars and persecution, especially women and adolescent girls, should not be treated like an afterthought in humanitarian response.” said Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

Read the full story at UNHCR.

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