“We Have a Broken Heart”: Sexual Violence against Refugees in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya - The Experiences of Congolese, Somali, and South Sudanese Men, Boys, and Trans Women, October 2019
Executive Summary “We have a broken heart here. We feel insecure. No one wants to help us.” – “Aisha,” trans refugee woman from Somalia. Up to 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers reside in the urban centers of Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya. Most refugees in Kenya are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia, and South Sudan, having fled brutal armed conflict, human rights violations, and persecution.
Widespread sexual violence against women and girls has characterized the conflicts in these countries, and women and girls suffer extensive sexual violence within their families and communities as well. Less is known about the sexual victimization of men and boys, including those with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), in these contexts or as refugees in urban settings in Kenya.
The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) conducted a qualitative exploratory study to examine the nature and characteristics of sexual violence perpetrated against Congolese, Somali, and South Sudanese refugee men and boys (including cisgender gay men, trans men, and others with diverse SOGIESC) and trans women in their home countries, during flight, and in Nairobi and Mombasa.
Intersections between sexual violence against men and boys and violence against women and girls were also examined. WRC undertook fieldwork in Nairobi and Mombasa in April and May 2019. Methods included key informant interviews with 40 humanitarian responders and human rights experts and 24 focus groups with 149 refugees and asylum seekers, including adolescent boys, young men, adult men, adult women, men with physical disabilities, and refugees with diverse SOGIESC. Data were coded and analyzed thematically using NVivo 12, a qualitative data management software. The University of New South Wales and the Kenya Medical Research Institute granted ethics approval for this study. Permits and approvals were also received from Kenya’s National Commission for Science, Technology, and Innovation, the Government of Kenya’s Refugee Affairs Secretariat, and the Nairobi and Mombasa County Commissioners.