Gender-Based Violence against Women: Both Cause for Migration and Risk along the Journey

Anja Parish
Date of Publication: 
September, 2017
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

This brief addresses gender-based violence that may cause women to migrate, as well as the prevalence of such violence along the journey and the vulnerable position female migrants are in when arriving in a country of first asylum.  The author notes that increasingly rape and sexual violence have become military strategies, often used within a single country when there are multiple factions fighting for control.  Evidence is presented from all over the world, including data from conflicts in Central American, Europe and Africa.  This initial gender-based violence causes women to flee their countries, and along their route they continue to face the danger of sexual violence.  For example, a UNICEF study found that half of the female Libyan migrants interviewed reported experiencing sexual violence. Once in refugee camps, women are likely to confront sexual violence again, often perpetrated by those in uniform.  Additionally, the report notes that although the United States considers gender-based violence allowable grounds for asylum, the burden of proof is high and the process may be difficult for the applicant.  Protections for the victims of gender-based violence do exist outside of the asylum system, but the report’s author notes that these protections require the involvement of law enforcement, which undocumented victims may be wary of contacting.  Statistics suggest that increased fears of deportation have led to a reduction in the reporting of gender-based violence among the Hispanic community in the United States. The author concludes that current policy directives are placing more female migrants at risk of gender-based violence and hampering the recovery efforts of survivors. (Erik Jacobson, Montclair State University)

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Parish, A. (2017). Gender-Based Violence against Women: Both Cause for Migration and Risk along the Journey. Washington, D.C.: Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from