Violence against Women and Girls in Humanitarian Emergencies: CHASE Briefing Paper



In recent years, the international community has increasingly recognised violence against women and girls (VAWG) as a significant human rights, global health and security issue. Preventing and responding to VAWG is a priority issue for the UK Government and is one of the four pillars of DFID’s Strategic Vision for Girls and Women. The UK has significantly increased its international efforts to prevent and respond to VAWG but has acknowledged that much more needs to be done, particularly in humanitarian emergencies.

This briefing paper provides an introduction to the issue of VAWG in humanitarian emergencies. It will help advisers and others to make the case for why DFID should do more to protect women and girls in emergency situations. It is aimed at a broad, internal DFID audience: for a range of advisory groups (not just humanitarian advisers, but conflict, governance and SDAs), for programme managers and for other generalist staff working in countries prone to, or affected by emergencies.

This briefing paper draws from a range of sources and will be updated as the evidence base grows. The paper:

 Explains the risks of VAWG in emergency contexts – in situations of both conflict and in natural disasters;
 Examines what we know about the extent of VAWG in emergencies and the consequences of overlooking VAWG in emergency response;
 Synthesises existing guidance on what can be done to prevent and respond to VAWG.

Whilst the state carries the primary responsibility for protecting populations, including from acts of VAWG in conflict and natural disasters, states may be unwilling and/or unable to provide protection to their citizens and populations within their borders. In such situations, the international community also has a responsibility to use appropriate humanitarian means to protect populations from crimes, including VAWG .

The paper concentrates on VAWG – reflecting the focus on women and girls in DFID’s Strategic Vision and the position set out in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Guidelines for Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings. These note that gender-based and sexual violence is primarily perpetrated by men against women and girls, but also recognises that men and boys can be vulnerable to sexual violence. Whilst preventing and responding to VAWG in emergencies has been a particularly neglected area, the focus on women and girls should be understood as one part of a much needed push within the humanitarian system to increase protection of all vulnerable groups in emergency situations, in line with recommendations from the Humanitarian Emergency Response Review (HERR).

The paper includes an annex with a short annotated bibliography of key texts, and a longer list of key guidance literature. These set out the international guidelines, standards and resources for programming on VAWG in emergencies. Further information can be obtained from Clea Kahn or Lucy Earle in CHASE. Key resources are available on the VAWG themesite http://epe-insight/vawg. The themesite also provides information on the VAWG helpdesk, a resource established to provide support to DFID staff on VAWG programming.
This paper was produced by the International Rescue Committee with support from Plan, Marie Stopes, Social Development Direct, CARE UK, the UK Gender and Development Network (GADN) and Sharon Smee.