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Eliminate violence against internally displaced women and girls, say UN Experts

Violence against displaced women

25 November 2014

For the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

GENEVA (25 November 2014) – Stronger, concerted efforts by all national and international actors are essential to prevent and eliminate violence against internally displaced women and girls, and to integrate their security needs in humanitarian responses, four UN human rights experts stressed on Tuesday, as the world marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

“Women and girls account for some half of the world's estimated 33.3 million people displaced by armed conflict, generalized violence and human rights violations,” said Chaloka Beyani, the UN Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons.

The risk of gender-based violence generally, and sexual violence in particular, increases dramatically following displacement and must be better recognized and confronted, he added.

“They flee to escape arbitrary killings, rape, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, forced recruitment or starvation, but too often, they encounter the same level of insecurity, violence and threats of violence, reinforced by a climate of impunity, at their destination, including in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs),” Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women said.

“Particular attention should be given to internally displaced older women. States have an obligation to ensure that this particular group be protected from physical and psychological abuse and violence, including neglect,” Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons added.

In spite of efforts to provide training, guidelines and manuals for those working with IDPs, including security forces, displaced women continue to be subjected to multiple forms of violence and discrimination, including domestic violence, early marriages and sexual harassment. In some situations, gender-based violence is used as a deliberate tactic of war to instil fear, and force displacement, or to discourage IDPs from demanding their rights. Displaced women are often deliberately targeted by armed actors who aim to humiliate, dominate and destroy communities or to manipulate the demographic composition of communities. There have also been cases of women being forced into sexual slavery including enforced concubinage, and of women suffering enforced sterilisation.

“Internally displaced women have told me, 'if we let our husbands and male children go to fetch firewood, food or water, they will be killed whereas we may be raped but spared death',” Mr Beyani said. “Fuel strategies and livelihood initiatives targeting displaced women and girls, and those at risk of displacement, are practical measures which can be central to reducing exposure to sexual violence.”

He emphasized that prevention and protection measures must include enhanced and gender-sensitive security for displaced individuals at risk of violence, as well as steps to tackle impunity, including through the prosecution of those who commit violence, whoever they may be. Ms. Manjoo also urged States to take all measures to combat impunity for sexual and gender-based violence, including by investigating and holding perpetrators accountable. In addition, Ms. Kornfeld-Matte emphasized the importance of including age-related measures in order to address the specific needs of internally displaced older women.

A more preventive approach to gender-based violence in the context of internal displacement is essential, and is also required within internally displaced households and communities, Ms. Manjoo said.

“Efforts to reduce violence against internally displaced women also require ensuring that survivors have access to appropriate support, including reproductive and psychosocial services. Adequate resources must be devoted to achieving gender-responsive goals,” she concluded.


(*) Check the report on internally displaced women by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs:

Chaloka Beyani, professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010.

Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. Ms. Manjoo is a Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town. Learn more, visit:

Rosa Kornfeld-Matte (Chile) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons in May 2014. Ms. Kornfeld-Matte served as the National Director of the Chilean National Service of Ageing where she designed and implemented the National Policy of Ageing. She has a long career as an academic and is the founder of the programme for older persons at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Learn more, visit:

Urmila Bhoola (South Africa) assumed her mandate as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences on 2 June 2014. Ms. Bhoola is a human rights lawyer working in the Asia Pacific region on international human rights, gender equality and labour law. She has 20 years of experience as a labour and human rights lawyer in South Africa and served as a Judge of the South African Labour Court for five years. Learn more, log on to: - See more at:

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Learn more, visit:

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