Addressing School-Related Gender-Based Violence is Critical for Safe Learning Environments in Refugee Contexts
Crises, conflict and displacement lead to heightened insecurities – physical, psychological, social and financial for affected populations including refugees. The breakdown of family and community support systems and high levels of stress and trauma magnify pre-existing levels of violence and conflict within families and in schools. That there is a rise in sexual and gender-based violence in conflict situations is undisputed. Reports of gender-based violence emerge in the aftermath as systems for reporting and response get established as part of a humanitarian response. Yet data required to produce global estimates is limited.
Within the learning environment, refugee and displaced students are often targets of verbal and physical violence and discrimination because of their status as refugees, in addition to their gender, language, religion, race and ethnicity, nationality and/or being older than other children in their class. Adolescent girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school in conflict and crises contexts compared to their male peers in similar contexts. Refugee children and adolescents, girls in particular, are vulnerable to being targeted – in particular by untrained male teachers and other men in positions of power in a school – to exchange sex for grades or for the payment of fees and other school related expenses.
Girls are also more likely to stop going to school when parents resort to early marriage as a coping mechanism or due to fear of violence on the way to and from school. Around the world, and in all settings, girls are vulnerable to violence because of inequities of power and status in society. Boys are also bullied and are victimized when perceived to not conform to prevailing norms of acceptable male behavior or appearance and may face harsher corporal punishment than girls