Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Crisis Situations

 Amina, a Nigerian refugee in Niger wears these colourful bracelets as a reminder of happier times. “It cheers me up to wear them and look at them, they remind me of Nigeria when it was peaceful,” she confides. Photo: H. Caux, UNHCR

During times of violent conflict, rape is frequently used as a military tactic to harm, humiliate and shame. Violence and war can also weaken systems of protection, security and justice. For these reasons, conflicts often exacerbate and escalate sexual violence. Similarly, disasters can also cause a deterioration of protection systems, which has the potential to increase vulnerability to abuse, gender-based violence, sexual harassment and trafficking.

Increased levels of sexual and gender-based violence can often persist well after the end of a crisis. Women and girls are usually disproportionally affected, and crimes such as these have devastating, long-term effects on the lives of survivors, their families, and the communities in which they live.     

But sexual and gender-based violence is neither inevitable nor acceptable. It is an outcome of gender inequality and a violation of human rights, for which states are accountable.

UNDP supports national efforts to respond to sexual and gender-based violence by:

  • Increasing women’s political participation and leadership in sectors such as justice and security, conflict prevention and peacebuilding, and economic recovery;
  • Supporting the development of policy and legal frameworks that are inclusive and protective of women and women’s rights;
  • Improving access to justice and security service delivery;
  • Providing services for survivors, including medical, psycho-social, family, legal and economic assistance;
  • Tackling  impunity for sexual and gender-based violence;
  • Establishing victims’ rights to reparations to help them rebuild their lives;
  • Engaging at community level in awareness-raising and prevention activities;
  • Mobilizing men to advocate against and tackle the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence.



Addressing the Legacy of Sexual Violence in Post-war Sierra Leone

Julia Sarkodie Mensah, Consultant Master and Registrar for the Judiciary, Sierra Leone

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