International Women's Day: Ogata denounces violence against women, calls for more action to protect them
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata today denounced violence against women and urged governments to offer asylum to those fleeing gender-related persecution. "Women refugees often experience persecution differently than men," Ogata said.
UNHCR says that in a number of societies women and girls face harsh punishment for exercising their fundamental human rights. "Women who suffer severe forms of persecution just because they are women deserve protection," said Ogata. "A proper interpretation of the refugee definition in the 1951 Refugee Convention can protect such women fleeing persecution."
UNHCR argues that women who face punishment for transgressing social mores can be regarded as a social group for the purpose of refugee status determination.
In addition, UNHCR says women and girls are not only abused in their countries of origin but they may also face rape and other forms of violence in refugee communities and camps.
Women and girls, who comprise well over 50% of any refugee population, are particularly vulnerable. "Refugee women often risk sexual abuse while collecting fire wood or performing other daily chores," said Ogata. "Putting a stop to this kind of brutality is one of my organization's top priorities."
UNHCR this year has launched a project to combat sexual violence in refugee communities in sub-Saharan Africa, backed by a $1.65 million grant from the U.S.-based Turner Foundation. The project, to be carried out in Kenya, Tanzania, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, aims to involve the refugee community in putting a halt to violence against women and girls.
"Violence against women and girls is a global problem. We must all work in partnership toward a world free of violence against women - including refugee women - in all its forms," Mrs. Ogata added. Back to Press Releases