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Our fight against sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment

Our fight against sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment

Tackling sexual exploitation and abuse against the people we serve, together with sexual harassment in the workplace, is a top priority for UNHCR.

Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) inflicts harm on women, girls, men and boys. It is an unacceptable violation of human rights. It denies the human dignity of the individual and hurts human development.



of women worldwide have experienced either domestic and/or sexual violence in their lifetime


of women worldwide have been in a relationship with physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner in their lifetime


SGBV data are always under-reported, especially for men and boys

Different forms of SGBV

SGBV refers to any act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and is based on gender norms and unequal power relationships. It encompasses threats of violence and coercion. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual in nature, and can take the form of a denial of resources or access to services. It can happen to women, girls, men and boys. SGBV does NOT only victimize women and girls.

Some rape and sexually mutilate those conquered and under detention as war weapons in armed conflicts. Some use sexual violence to attack on those who failed to adhere to gender roles, such as men’s wartime roles and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) community. Some rape women as psychological torture of men, making these men secondary victims of SGBV. Honour killings, child marriage, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and other harmful practices also constitute SGBV.

SGBV has been both a cause of forced displacement and a terrible consequence of the breakdown of family and community structures that accompanies displacement. It has also been perpetrated by some of the very people who have been entrusted with the task of protecting refugees and displaced persons.

What is UNHCR doing to help?

As UNHCR, we are mandated to provide international protection to refugees. We, together with States, thus share the responsibility for ensuring that refugees are protected against SGBV.

We are committed to ending all forms of SGBV that may happen to women and girls, as well as men and boys.

Therefore, we work to prevent SGBV before it happens, for example by providing education to empower vulnerable displaced persons, as well as to respond to the needs of all survivors, such as by providing counselling and legal services. To address the needs of survivors who wish not to disclose too much out of social taboos, we also provide specific services like art therapy to help them endure violence and improve their self-esteem.

To support our work with displaced persons fleeing armed conflict and sexual violence, please donate now.