|Sexual Violence against Refugees - Guidelines on Prevention and Response (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) / Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (ACNUR), 1995, 106 p.)|
|Chapter 2 - PREVENTIVE MEASURES|
Supports the High Commissioners efforts, in coordination with other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations competent in this area, to develop and organize training courses for authorities, including camp officials, eligibility officers, and others dealing with refugees on practical protection measures for preventing and responding to sexual violence;...
Encourages the High Commissioner to pursue actively her efforts, in cooperation with bodies and organizations dealing with human rights, to increase awareness of the rights of refugees and the specific needs and abilities of refugee women and girls and to promote the full and effective implementation of the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women;
Executive Committee Conclusion No. 73 (XLIV) (1993), paragraphs (i) and (k)
Refugee Protection and Sexual Violence
a) Public information campaigns
Information campaigns are an important tool in combatting sexual violence. Public information campaigns should be launched on the issue of sexual violence, taking into account cultural sensitivities, ethics, and the particular circumstances prevailing in the country concerned.
Target groups for information activities could include:
· UNHCR staff
· NGO staff
· government officials
· security personnel, including police officers and the military
· any others who come into contact with refugees.
Topics covered could include:
· preventive measures
· how and where to seek assistance if sexually attacked
· national and international laws prohibiting sexual violence
· sanctions and penalties associated with acts of sexual violence.
Tools which could be utilized in such campaigns include:
· pamphlets, newsletters, information bulletins, posters
· community entertainment (songs, theatre)
· verbal presentations at public or community meetings
· NGO networks, religious or other groups
· radio and other mass media
The assistance of NGOs and refugees, particularly female refugees, may be sought in developing appropriate training programmes. Video education in public information campaigns may be particularly effective. Preparing and disseminating statistics on sexual violence in refugee situations may help others become aware of this problem.
Correct false rumours and misinformation
If it becomes known that false rumours are circulating in the refugee camps in relation to sexual violence, an immediate information campaign should be launched to dispel them. (An example might be the rumour that rape victims will receive cash benefits or resettlement opportunities).
b) Training courses could focus on:
· how to prevent sexual violence and how to respond to incidents of sexual violence (immediate and long-term action and follow-up) using these Guidelines;
· the causes and consequences of sexual violence;
· legal awareness;
· basic human rights and responsibilities. The UNHCR Training Module Human Rights and Refugee Protection, 1995, is available as training material;
· the rights to personal security under national and international law, with a particular emphasis on the rights of women and girls;
· interviewing skills. The UNHCR Training Module Interviewing Applicants for Refugee Status, 1995, is available as training material.
c) In addition, various groups may benefit from more specialized training in specific areas, for example:
Refugees and local communities
Refugees and local communities should be provided with education and training, presented in a culturally appropriate way, preferably created with the involvement of refugee women.
· modifying negative attitudes towards the victims of sexual violence;
· reinforcing and fostering concepts of community responsibility for protecting and assisting its vulnerable members and assisting their families.
· educating the refugees as to their responsibilities under the laws of the country of asylum and in particular the penalties associated with violence, including sexual violence;
· widely disseminating information about cases resulting in conviction, and the sentence administered;
· informing the refugee population and the local population that UNHCR and the international community take a strong position against sexual violence. Ways suggested above under (a) Public information campaigns could be used.
Recognize the influence of community and religious leaders in this context and enlist their cooperation in changing attitudes towards sexual violence, both in terms of prevention and in alleviating the effect on the victims.
Female refugees should be made aware of their legal rights and responsibilities. In particular, they should be made aware of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Urges the High Commissioner to undertake initiatives for refugee women in the areas of leadership and skills training, legal awareness, and education; and in particular in the area of reproductive health, with full respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of the refugees, in conformity with universally recognized international human rights and the UNHCR Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women.
Executive Committee Conclusions on the Recommendation of the Working Group:
Refugee Women (1994), paragraph (b)
It is important that refugee women know in advance about the facilities and forms of assistance which are available to them should they be sexually attacked so that they can avail themselves of this help.
Refugee women should know that confidentiality will be respected and that they will be treated with sensitivity and compassion. Victims should be made comfortable about coming forward. This sort of information may encourage reporting of incidents and thereby increase the provision of assistance and protection to victims.
In particular, refugee women should be informed in advance of dos and donts, for example:
· the need to have a medical examination as early as possible following a sexual attack;
· to avoid washing themselves immediately following an attack as this will affect the results of any medical examination which may be crucial to any later criminal prosecution;
· to keep any evidence intact, such as preserving the clothes worn at the time of the incident without cleaning them.
Refugee leaders could be trained so that they will be in a better position to assist in modifying negative attitudes towards the victims and in fostering concepts of community responsibility. Moreover, such training could facilitate the dissemination of information on sexual violence and measures for prevention.
UNHCR, other concerned UN staff, and NGO staff
UNHCR, other concerned UN staff, and NGO staff should be aware of their duty to uphold and implement UNHCR policy as contained in the Policy on Refugee Women, the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women, the Policy on Refugee Children and the Guidelines on Refugee Children, as well as these Guidelines. They should furthermore be aware of UNHCR Executive Committee Conclusions touching on this issue (in particular those relating to refugee women and sexual violence).
All UN staff members, including members of peace-keeping forces, should be reminded of their obligation to ensure that their activities conform to norms established in United Nations human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.
UNHCR staff, particularly field and protection officers and interpreters, should be well-trained in interviewing skills and how to deal with incidents of sexual violence. NGO staff should be aware of their role in preventing and responding to sexual violence. These Guidelines and the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women can be used as basic documents.
Government officials should be informed of their responsibility and of the measures they should take to protect the rights of refugees, with particular emphasis on the national laws and the relevant international human rights instruments that they have ratified, and UNHCRs Executive Committee Conclusion No. 73 (XLIV) (1993) on Refugee Protection and Sexual Violence (contained in Annex 4).
Members of the security forces
Members of the security forces should be advised of the relevant codes of conduct aimed at preventing and redressing abuse of power, in particular that which involves the commission of acts of sexual violence. They should be made aware of the problem of sexual violence and ways of taking preventive and remedial protective action. Furthermore, they should be trained in interviewing skills and how to support the needs of victims to enable them to handle these cases appropriately.
d) Role of the media and human rights reports
The media and human rights reports can play an important role in some situations by putting pressure on States to provide physical protection to refugees.
See 5.1 Dealing with the Media.