Exposed to epidemic levels of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) throughout their displacement, refugee women and girls are more affected by violence than any other population of women in the world. In times of war and its aftermath, legal structures that traditionally protect women and children, including formal and informal justice systems and respect for the rule of law, break down leaving them vulnerable to abuse. This includes but is not limited to rape, early and forced marriage and domestic violence.
The atrocities and abuses of war and the resultant culture of violence can become ingrained, creating a culture of impunity. Legal protection, with its foundations in justice and security, is essential to conflict prevention, mitigation and recovery; it is essential in saving lives.
A Guide to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Legal Protection in Acute Emergencies
In response to the lack of legal protection facing refugee women and girls, War Child launched the first-ever independently evaluated, documented best practices manual in the legal protection sector. The manual, A Guide to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Legal Protection in Acute Emergencies (available for download here), was developed in partnership with the Women’s Refugee Commission and draws upon War Child’s vast experience in legal aid to outline best practices for survivor-centered legal protection services in emergency settings.
The guide summarizes an assessment of War Child Canada’s three-pronged legal protection model as implemented with South Sudanese refugees in Northern Uganda and uses it to identify the most important lessons for ensuring legal protection mechanisms are in place at the onset of an emergency.
It is meant to help build the evidence base on what may be a replicable model, or set of practices, for survivor-centered SGBV legal protection services in emergency settings; expand understanding of positive practices and lessons learned; and help humanitarian actors gain the competencies needed to uphold their SGBV responsibilities.
While this guide is based on the learning from one specific environment – Northern Uganda immediately after the influx of South Sudanese refugees – it provides considerations and recommendations for contextualization to different contexts and regions.