Introduction

In its 2000 World Refugee Survey, the U.S. Committee for Refugees estimates that as of December 31, 1999, there were over 14 million refugees and asylum seekers worldwide and at least 21 million internally displaced people. (1) The vast majority – as high as 75 percent – are women and young children. (2, 3, 4) In addition to experiencing the same hardships and security concerns as adult male refugees, women and children have special protection needs because of their gender and age. In particular, they need protection from sexual violence and exploitation, as well as physical violence and discrimination. (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) Sexual violence can encompass anything ranging from rape and other sexual physical assaults or attempts to offers of food, protection, documents or other assistance in exchange for sexual favors. (2, 3, 4, 6, 8) This article focuses on protecting women and children in refugee camps from all forms of sexual violence committed by male offenders. Here, the term “refugee” includes refugees, internally displaced people, asylum seekers, and returnees. Similarly, a “refugee camp” refers to a temporary living arrangement where refugees, internally displaced people, asylum seekers, and returnees may reside, but does not include detention facilities. By focusing on women and children, the authors do not suggest that men are not targets of sexual violence or that women cannot be offenders. (4, 8, 9) However, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 1995 guidelines, Sexual Violence against Refugees: Guidelines on Prevention and Response (Guidelines on Sexual Violence), the majority of reported cases of sexual violence involve female targets and male perpetrators. (6) Likewise, by limiting the environment of concern to refugee camps, we do not imply that sexual violence against refugees does not take place elsewhere. It is widely accepted, for example, that sexual violence occurs during flight from and return to the country of origin, as well as in the country of asylum. (2, 5, 6) Refugee camps, however, offer an environment where some practical and commonsense measures based on injury-control models can be implemented fairly easily to reduce the risk of sexual violence for these vulnerable groups. Accordingly, although the assessment and planning tool introduced here is in pilot form and does not address all aspects of sexual or physical violence, exploitation, and discrimination among refugees, it is one step in what must be a coordinated effort to resolve this multi-faceted international problem.

Background

In an effort to reduce sexual violence in refugee camps, humanitarian organizations have published guidelines and issued reports to aid workers in the field. Many organizations have recognized that a significant portion of these abuses can be prevented by setting up refugee camps and distributing goods and services in a manner which reduces the opportunities for sexual violence to occur. For example, the former Refugee Policy Group (RPG) states that “[t]he way in which camps are laid out will contribute greatly to the physical security of the residents.” (2) RPG suggests such things as establishing security patrols; housing vulnerable groups such as single women, women heads of households, and unaccompanied minors in separate accommodations from male refugees; and improving lighting. (2) The UNHCR has made similar recommendations. In 1991, the UNHCR published Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women, which refer to this method of intervention as “addressing protection through assistance.” (3) These Guidelines also recognize that the “poor design of camps” – including communal housing, location of basic services and facilities at unsafe distances from housing accommodations, and poor lighting – affects refugee safety. (3) The UNHCR recommends similar interventions as RPG, including measures such as: consulting with women to determine what they believe would be the best housing arrangements; locating basic services and facilities at sites that do not make refugee women vulnerable to attack; establishing security patrols; and installing lights on paths used at night. (3) The Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women also suggest placing women in charge of distributing food so men cannot force them to exchange food for sexual favors, as well as providing refugee women economic opportunities to earn sufficient income to support themselves or their families so they do not resort to prostitution. (3) To aid providers of humanitarian assistance in implementing their recommendations, the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women list a series of questions to consider when assessing and planning for the protection of refugee women. (3) In 1995, the UNHCR published the Guidelines on Sexual Violence devoted exclusively to sexual violence. (6) The Guidelines on Sexual Violence are intended to assist all UNCHR staff, particularly those in the field, as well as other organizations who provide protection and assistance to refugees. The Guidelines on Sexual Violence are comprehensive and address a range of subjects concerning this issue. For example, the Guidelines define sexual violence, where it occurs, its causes and effects and outline reasons why many incidents go unreported. They suggest preventive measures that both the refugees themselves and those responsible for their care can take to prevent sexual violence, as well as discussing both practical and legal measures to take after sexual violence has occurred. The Guidelines on Sexual Violence also provide a Sexual Violence Needs Assessment and Programme Framework tool. (2) The Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children has prepared synopses based on these UNHCR Guidelines (10, 11) and a checklist to help field workers identify the specific protection issues unique to women. (12)

To our knowledge, no one has designed a conceptual framework in which to develop strategies aimed at preventing or reducing sexual violence in a refugee camp. For almost thirty years, public health professionals have used the Haddon Matrix to understand the interaction of human, agent and environmental factors that affect injury and its outcome. Use of the Haddon Matrix has helped in the critical assessment of injury risk factors and to identify effective intervention strategies. (13, 14) It has also helped to remove the preoccupation with individual behaviors and characteristics as risk factors for injury. Applying the same principles, the authors have set out to develop a matrix relevant to the refugee-camp setting, which is easily understood and used without extensive training. In this article, we introduce the Opportunity Matrix for Sexual Violence Against Women and Children in Refugee Camps. Although the proposed Opportunity Matrix is not intended to replace surveillance, it can be used as both a planning and assessment tool. It is specifically designed to identify possibly opportunities for sexual violence to occur so measures can be taken to reduce those opportunities. In addition, the authors believe that the Opportunity Matrix will build awareness in those who use it — including field workers and potential targets of violence — of the risk poised by certain situations and the relative ease of modifying the environment to reduce that risk. Finally, as more refugee camps use the Opportunity Matrix, aggregate information about risk factors can be compiled and baselines established for monitoring changes in sexual violence relative to changes in camp design.

Opportunity Matrix

The rows in the Opportunity Matrix (see Appendix) represent different activities, goods or services in the refugee camp which may provide opportunities for sexual violence to occur. The columns explore various aspects of those opportunities. Specifically, the columns ask for the following relevant information about the activity, good or service, listed in the rows: WHERE – where does the activity take place or is the good or service obtained; WHO – who is in charge of the activity or distributes the good or service; WHEN – when does the activity take place or is the good or service obtained: HOW – how is the good or service obtained (e.g., vouchers, name on list, as needed); and WHO/WITH WHOM – who engages in the activity or obtains the good or service and with whom (if anyone) do they do so. Many of the cells may be left blank depending upon the particular refugee setting. The goal is not to fill each cell mechanically, but to critically think about the opportunities for sexual violence and explore the various facets of those opportunities.

The Opportunity Matrix is best understood by looking at a concrete example. A partial Opportunity Matrix concerning a hypothetical refugee camp has been completed below. Simply by reading these few entries interventions aimed at preventing sexual violence or reducing the risk become evident.

OPPORTUNITY MATRIX FOR SEXUAL VIOLENCE AGAINST

WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN HYPOTHETICAL REFUGEE CAMP X ©

 

WHERE

does activity

take place or is good / service obtained

WHO

is in charge of activity or

distributes

good/service

WHEN

does activity

take place or is good/ service

obtained

HOW

is good/ service

obtained

WHO

engages in

activity or obtains good/ service and

WITH WHOM

FUEL

firewood gathered in woods north

of camp

NA

early morning

self

women and children alone

or with each other

FOOD

distribution

center

male

volunteers in camp

Saturday

mornings

vouchers

women alone

LATRINE

east side of

camp at end

of secluded

unlit path

NA

all hours

self

women and children alone or with each other

The completed Opportunity Matrix above indicates that women and children search for firewood in the woods north of the camp early in the morning. The women and children are often alone or only with other women and children. Such circumstances present an opportunity for a potential offender. One way to eliminate this opportunity is to provide alternative fuel (if available) so women and children do not have to gather wood. The Opportunity Matrix also shows that in this hypothetical camp male volunteers distribute food. This arrangement provides the opportunity for the male volunteers to force the women to exchange food for sexual favors. To eliminate this opportunity, women or trusted members of the community should be put in charge of food distribution. Finally, the Opportunity Matrix shows that in order to use the latrine, women and children must walk on a secluded path at all hours of the day and night. In order to make it more costly to attack them, lighting could be installed on the path or security personnel stationed there at night.

The above example is a way to assess opportunities for sexual violence in an established refugee camp. The Opportunity Matrix also can be used before any decisions are made regarding the camp layout or the distribution of goods and services. By completing the Opportunity Matrix, providers of humanitarian assistance can determine in advance if their proposed assistance places women and children in vulnerable situations. If it does, the proposal should not be implemented. In this way, the protection of women and children against sexual violence becomes an integral part of the decision-making process.

In conclusion, the Opportunity Matrix for Sexual Violence Against Women and Children in Refugee Camps can be both a planning and assessment tool. It is quick and easy to use and provides a great deal of useful information to providers in the camp. The residents of the camps should complete the Opportunity Matrix separately because they will be able to provide a perspective that might reveal opportunities of sexual violence overlooked by the providers. More importantly, those most affected by the violence must be actively involved in the planning and implementation of measures aimed at their protection.

Request for Field Testing and Feedback

The Opportunity Matrix for Sexual Violence Against Women and Children in Refugee Camps is still in the developmental stage, and therefore the authors anticipate that field testing will reveal possible omissions. We therefore encourage its use and would appreciate feedback on its effectiveness as well as any suggested modifications. Please address all inquiries and comments to Julie Dugan at jdugan@jhsph.edu, The Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health, 624 North Broadway, Baltimore, Maryland, 21205, U.S.A., 410-614-6404.

Authors

Julie Dugan, JD, MPH

Research Associate, The Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health,

Center for Gun Policy and Research

Certificate in Humanitarian Assistance, Certificate in Health & Human Rights, Certificate in Injury Control

Carolyn J. Fowler, PhD, MPH

Assistant Scientist, The Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health,

Center for Injury Research & Policy

Paul A. Bolton, MBBS, MPH, ScM

Assistant Scientist, The Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health,

Center for Refugee and Disaster Studies

References

1. U.S. Committee for Refugees. World Refugee Survey 2000. Washington, D.C.

2. Refugee Policy Group. Issues in Refugee and Displaced Women and Children by Martin SF. Expert Group Meeting on Refugee Women and Children Vienna, 2-6 July 1990. Washington, DC.

3. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women. Geneva. July 1991.

4. Sapir, DG. Natural and man-made disasters: the vulnerability of women-headed households and children without families. World Health Statistics Quarterly 1993; 46(4): 227-233.

5. Amnesty International. Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: Human Rights Violations Against Women in Kosovo Province. New York, New York. August 1998.

6. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Sexual Violence Against Refugees: Guidelines on Prevention and Response. Geneva. 1995.

7. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and NGO Partners. Protecting Refugees: A Field Guide for NGOs. May 1999.

8. Mantak, FJ. Creating an Alternative Framework for Preventing Rape: Applying Haddon’s Injury Prevention Strategies. Journal of Public Health Policy 1995 16(1): 13-28.

9. Black, ME, Forster, G., and Mezey, G. Reproductive freedom for refugees. Lancet. 341:1285 (1993).

10. Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children. Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women: a synopsis of UNHCR Guidelines.

11.Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children. Sexual Violence in Refugee Crises: A Synopsis of UNHCR Guidelines for Prevention and Response.

12.Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children. Protecting the Refugee Community: A Field Worker’s Checklist for Program Effectiveness. September 1997.

13.Haddon, W. Advances in the Epidemiology of Injuries as a Basis for Public Policy. Public Health Reporter. 95(5): 411-421 (1980).

14.Karlson TA, Injury Control and Public Policy, Critical Reviews in Environmental Control, 22(3/4): 195-241 (1992).

APPENDIX

OPPORTUNITY MATRIX FOR SEXUAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

AND CHILDREN IN REFUGEE CAMP __________________________

 

WHERE

does activity take place or is good/service obtained

WHO

is in charge of activity or distributes good/service

WHEN

does activity take place or is good/service obtained

HOW

is good/service obtained

(e.g., vouchers,

as needed)

WHO

engages in activity or obtains good/service and

WITH WHOM

FUEL

         

FOOD

         

WATER

         

LATRINE

         

SHELTER

         

CLOTHING

         

Inquiries and comments can be made to Julie Dugan, JD, MPH, at jdugan@jhsph.edu

OPPORTUNITY MATRIX FOR SEXUAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

AND CHILDREN IN REFUGEE CAMP __________________________

 

WHERE

does activity take place or is good/service obtained

WHO

is in charge of activity or distributes good/service

WHEN

does activity take place or is good/service obtained

HOW

is good/service obtained

(e.g., vouchers,

as needed)

WHO

engages in activity or obtains good/service and

WITH WHOM

MEDICAL

         

SECURITY

         

BATHING

         

WASHING

DISHES

         

WASHING

CLOTHES

         

OTHER

         

Inquiries and comments can be made to Julie Dugan, JD, MPH, at jdugan@jhsph.edu

Tagged with:
 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>