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Adolescents may find themselves struggling to find sustenance, community, and local operations that offer assistance, only to end up in one hardship after another. But what if, on top of all of these vital struggles, you were also a victim of SGBV (Sexual and Gender-based violence)? From Refugee Settlements in Uganda, Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Tanzania, to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, this is the ugly truth for some refugees and asylum seekers within the Eastern African community.
According to the article written by The UN Refugee Agency for Help Kenya, titled Sexual & gender-based violence, “[SGBV] refers to any act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and is based on gender norms and unequal power relationships”. Thus, there is a multitude of routes SGBV can expressed, as noted by UNHCR, from non-consensual sexual acts and use of pressure, to threats of harm, and forced marriages.
There are various rationale as to why such behavior has been previously overlooked. Patricia Mundia remarks on the history of SGBV in Kenya in their article, stating: “Prior to the enactment of the Sexual Offences Act [(SOA)][of July] 2006, cases of [(SGBV)] were not effectively addressed by [Kenyan Law]” (2014, p.4). This is due to ambiguous definitions, “inadequate legal framework” and the like. Now, with the SOA in place, the scope of SGBV also covers male victims as well, serving higher penalties to offenders and offering more services to those affected.
Despite this headway, including “[The] Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act” which was installed in 2011, Dennis Likule remarks that, “refugee women are continually exposed to multiple cases of subordination, marginalization, and violence” (Sex and Gender-based Violence: Cultural and Religious Misconceptions that Negatively Affect Refugees, 2014, p.6). It is noted that complications in reporting are worsened by language barriers, lack of knowledge regarding resources, fear of police and fear of public shame: “[…] they are labeled as sex workers and are often presumed to be infected with HIV/AIDS, and […] considered unsuitable for marriage” (2014, p.7).
In conclusion, such horrible consequences have not gone unnoticed in the article, Sexual and gender-based violence and refugees: the impacts of and on integration domains, which states, “[given] the estimated prevalence of SGBV across the refugee journey, experiences need to be conceptualized as an ongoing and multi-faceted experience of trauma, with both immediate and long-term consequences” (Pertek et al. 2019, p.5).
Article Written by: Avery De Cloedt
Edited by: Gloria B. Mairura
Likule, D. (2014). Refugee Insights: Newsletter of the Consortium of Kenya, Issue No.24. Nairobi; Refugee Consortium of Kenya: Legal Aid and Policy Development Centre.
Mundia, P. (2014). Refugee Insights: Newsletter of the Refugee Consortium of Kenya, Issue No.24. Nairobi; Refugee Consortium of Kenya: Legal Aid and Policy Development Centre.
Pertek, S., Phillimore, J., & Alidu, L. (2019). Sexual and gender-based violence and refugees: the impacts of and on integration domains. Birmingham; University of Birmingham & Institute for Research into Superdiversity.
UNHCR. (n.d.). Sexual & gender-based violence. UNHCR Kenya. Retrieved August 24, 2022, from https://help.unhcr.org/kenya/helpful-services/sexual-gender-based-violence/