The New Humanitarian | A GBV reading list: Ten takes from humanitarian settings


For the annual 16 Days campaign against gender-based violence, The New Humanitarian has compiled a round-up looking at how COVID-19 lockdowns, conflict, migration, and other global emergencies continue to disproportionately put women and girls at risk of abuse.

While GBV is estimated to affect one in three women globally, for women and girls in humanitarian settings it’s 70 percent, and COVID-19 has only made the situation worse. In a report published this week by UN Women, nearly half of the women surveyed said they or someone they know had experienced gender-based violence.

From Asia to Africa to the Americas, the pandemic weakened economies, forcing many out of work and putting education on hold for millions of children. With women and girls often having to be confined with abusers, the violence became so bad it was dubbed a “shadow pandemic”. 

Movement restrictions during lockdowns curtailed women’s access to support structures, while existing weaknesses in police and legal response were often left badly exposed. Feeling trapped, some women have been driven to attempt suicide. Others have ended up dead, most often killed by a partner or relative.

Rohingya women in refugee camps in Bangladesh, already displaced by conflict, faced further threats and violence from criminal gangs trying to stifle their rights or keep them from speaking out about abuses. Women attempting to flee abuses in Central America by migrating to the United States have struggled to overturn asylum rules that limited GBV-based claims. 

With schools closed because of COVID-19, young girls haven’t been spared either. But cultural norms that disempower women have also continued to feed high levels of violence, including the rape of a three-year-old girl in Liberia.

Our joint investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation uncovered widespread sexual exploitation and abuse by Ebola aid workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to showing in sharp relief just how lacklustre the response of even the largest humanitarian organisations is to such abuses, it also underlined how vulnerability increases among women as they try to find work to survive during emergencies.

The aid sector, meanwhile, continues to wrestle with a longstanding shortfall in funding for programmes for GBV victims, and the continued marginalisation of women in emergency response planning.

Here are 10 examples of our recent reporting that explore GBV and sexual abuse and exploitation issues in different humanitarian settings around the globe.


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