Sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, is a problem throughout the world, occurring in every society, country and region. Refugees and internally displaced people are particularly at risk of this violation of their human rights during every phase of an emergency situation. The systematic use of sexual violence as a method of warfare is well documented and constitutes a grave breach of international humanitarian law.
Over the past five years, humanitarian agencies have been working to put in place systems to respond to sexual and gender-based violence, as well as to support community-based efforts to prevent such violence. In March 2001, the international humanitarian community came together to document what had been done and what still needed to be done to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence towards refugees. In a conference hosted by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva, 160 representatives of refugee, nongovernmental, governmental and intergovernmental organizations shared their experiences and lessons learned.
The first version of this document was an outcome of that conference. It was distributed in a variety of settings around the world and field-tested at several sites. Feedback from these field-tests has been included in the current revised version, which is the result of collaboration between the International Committee of the Red Cross (Health Unit); the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Technical Support Unit); the United Nations Population Fund (Humanitarian Response Unit); and the World Health Organization (Department of Reproductive Health and Research, Department of Injury and Violence Prevention, and Department of Gender and Women's Health). This version has also been updated to include the most recent technical information on the various aspects of care for people who have been raped.