In Latin America, 62 percent of women who have moved as migrants, refugees or asylum seekers have felt insecure or very insecure about the possibility of experiencing gender-based violence in transit, according to a study by two international refugee aid agencies. A little-known aspect of the migration problem
At the same time, 35 percent of these women do not feel safe at their destination, according to the study by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS).
José Samaniego, UNHCR's regional director, said that "persistent gender inequality and high risks of gender-based violence impact millions of forcibly displaced women and girls."
There are 21.4 million forcibly displaced people in the Americas, "the largest and most complex displacement crisis in its history," according to UNHCR. Of these displaced people, 49% are women and girls.
UNHCR recalls that there are many reasons behind the need to leave their homes: insecurity and violence, persecution, poverty and inequality, human rights violations, gender-based violence, deteriorating law and order and the growing impact of the climate change effects.
Gender-based violence intersects with other types of discrimination such as age, ethnicity, migration status, nationality, religion, marital status, sexual orientation and gender identity.
According to the study, the main manifestation of gender-based violence (GBV) identified at the time of transit is sexual violence (36%), followed by psychological violence (31%) and physical violence (13%).
The risk of GBV continues in the country of asylum, and in these destinations 34% of UNHCR-HIAS survey participants considered that the main type of GBV they may face is psychological, followed by socio-economic violence (18%).
Factors that may expose women to a higher risk of GBV include xenophobia (31%), lack of employment opportunities (19%) and limited access to information (16%).
Public spaces (54%) are identified as the main place of risk, followed by home (21%) and work (10%), with 92% of the women surveyed having informal employment in the destination country.
In Brazil, shelters are identified as a place of risk for gender-based violence.
The study, with data for 2022, included surveys of 1008 women in seven countries (Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela), 52 focus groups with a total of 364 women and men participants, and interviews with dozens of key informants and refugee women.
Of the women surveyed, 62 percent were Venezuelan, 12 percent Honduran, 10 percent Nicaraguan, nine percent Colombian, and two percent each from three countries: El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti.
UNHCR and UN Women announced a partnership to promote programmes that integrate a gender perspective into humanitarian responses and national policies and systems. "Only through joint commitment and effective action can we create a safer and more equitable future for all women and girls in these difficult circumstances," said Samaniego.
Gender-based violence "is exacerbated in contexts of human mobility, exposing women, girls and LGBTIQ+ people to a continuum of violence, from the origin, during the journey and at their points of arrival," noted Cecilia Alemany, Acting Regional Director of UN Women.
"UN Women calls on States to focus on internal and international forced displacement and to address gender-based violence," Alemany added.
One of the works proposed by the agencies is that of information, as refugee women have little knowledge of their rights and the services available in their communities, according to the documents.
Of the women who participated in the study, 62% were not aware of the rights of refugee women and women in human mobility if they are at risk of gender-based violence, and 55% were unaware of the services available in their communities.
Photo. Venezuelan migrants at a passenger terminal in Bogota: Forcibly displaced women in the continent face risks of gender-based violence during their transit and also at their destinations, and need information programmes about their rights, UNHCR and UN Women stress. © Fernanda Pineda / AI