This report presents the results of research conducted with female refugees living in North Jordan and South Lebanon who are Syrian Nationals (SN) and Palestinian Refugees from Syria (PRS) as well as gender based violence (GBV) case workers who provide services to refugee women and girls who experience GBV. Through focus group discussions, interviews, and clinic-based surveys, we have examined:
the scope of violence perpetrated against women and girl refugees from Syria living in Tyre, Saida, Ajloun, and Jerash;
the intersection of reproductive health and gender based violence;
perceptions of help sources among PRS and SN in these locations; and
support services provided to PRS and SN female refugees who experience GBV
Our research forms the basis of our recommendations for service providers, researchers, and donors in these specific areas of Lebanon and Jordan.
This report is divided into three main sections. The first section reviews the context which influences women and girls’ experience of GBV in these specific areas of North Jordan and South Lebanon. The second section details the findings of the study as they relate to the scope of violence in public and private spaces, women’s health and access to health services, and women’s help seeking behaviors and experiences with help seeking. Finally, section three includes the conclusions of the research and recommendations for research opportunities to support PRS and Syrian refugee women and girls who experience GBV living in the study areas in North Jordan and South Lebanon.
Overall we find that GBV is a significant problem in North Jordan and South Lebanon for refugee women and girls from Syria and frequently restricts their movement, causes them mental and physical distress, and occurs both inside and outside of the home. The most common form of violence reported by participants was emotional violence; however, a large number also reported sexual violence. Among those who reported violence, most indicated that they had been subjected to multiple types of violence (i.e., emotional and physical violence). Women and girls were more likely to discuss physical violence as occurring in the home while harassment, emotional violence, and discrimination were more likely to occur outside of the home. Sexual violence was particularly prevalent and occurred in both public and private spaces. The main perpetrators of sexual violence were husbands, neighbors and owners of the home where the respondents’ were residing. In general, women and girls felt that severe poverty, men’s and women’s inability to perform traditional gender roles, and rising prices are contributing factors to women and girl’s experience of GBV. Women and girls also felt that Syrian women were perceived as easy targets for forced and coerced sex perpetrated both by individuals in public spaces and by their husbands because they lacked the traditional family member support and protection due to displacement.
Almost half of the women and girls who reported experiencing some form of violence reported any health impact. Women reported physical health impacts that ranged in severity from bruises to broken bones. Women and girls indicated that their sexual and reproductive health was directly influenced by the violence and these health impacts included miscarriages and sexually transmitted infection. Additionally, the reproductive health outcomes that appear to be associated with women and girls’ experience of violence included smoking during pregnancy and preterm delivery although further analysis is required to confirm these potential associations.
Women and girls were often reluctant to tell anyone about the violence for fear of being blamed for causing the violence or other consequences such as inciting further violence, being divorced, and not being able to see their children, among others. Of the women and girls who disclosed violence, the majority informed their husbands or a female family member. In general, women perceived survivors of violence as often being at fault for the violence and thus formal help seeking was seen as a last resort.
The few who told a formal source, which included the police and women’s NGOs, did so only when the violence was severe or ongoing. Barriers to support seeking included shame because revealing family violence is perceived as a violation of social norms, fear of the consequences, lack of trust in service providers, and inability to leave the home due to lack of finances or childcare. Women and girls also needed the permission of husbands or other family members to attend programming and often had to obscure their visits to GBV survivor service providers by informing their family members that they were seeking and obtaining alternatively, more socially acceptable services such as healthcare.
Based on the findings of this research, we believe that while most survivors of violence will not seek formal services, there is much that community-based organizations, international organizations, and donors are doing and can do to enhance the support that women and girl refugees receive in North Jordan and South Lebanon:
Offer multiple services in one site to help women overcome high social barriers to attending survivor support services and enable them to obtain the permission that they frequently need from male family members to attend.
Integrate the updated IASC Guidelines into current practice to enable service providers to remain in contact with refugees who are frequently displaced by the high cost of living in host communities.
Examine how services could be provided more efficiently in particular by identifying methods to reduce GBV service provider staff turnover and by determining if it is efficient to develop parallel services for Palestinian Refugees from Syria and Syrian Nationals.
Address the cost of healthcare services associated with reproductive and sexual health and ensure that healthcare providers screen for violence exposure in order to ensure that women and girls who are at risk of violence are able to obtain healthcare services for health impacts of violence that are associated with mortality.
Integrate child protection services into GBV survivor support services and make GBV services child and adolescent friendly because many children have been abused or have witnessed abuse and intervention with children of violence survivors is needed to prevent the cycle of violence.
Implement interventions involving conditional or unconditional cash transfers and conduct rigorous evaluations to support women to relieve tensions caused by financial stress in the home but further research is needed to examine the efficacy of this type of intervention in the Middle East.
Where possible, engage older in research activities to shed light on important issues for this particularly under-researched population.
Conduct activities and research with men and boys to understand how men and boys could be better integrated into violence prevention initiatives to prevent marital rape and sexual assault, child marriage, and child abuse.
Through these initiatives and the ongoing services, we believe that service organizations and donors can enhance their support for women and girl refugees from Syria living in North Jordan and South Lebanon.