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Addressing Sexual Violence against Men, Boys, and LGBTQ+ Refugees: Learnings from Pilot Projects in Bangladesh, Kenya, and Italy/Bulgaria

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Summary of Pilot Learnings

In 2018 and 2019, the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) undertook exploratory qualitative research on sexual violence against men and boys (including those with diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identity/expression) in three refugee settings: Bangladesh (Cox’s Bazar), Italy, and urban Kenya.1 During the data collection process, in-country partners were identified to pilot projects to support uptake of sexual violence services for male and LGBTQ+ survivors. This report presents a synthesis of the key learnings from the pilots and outlines top recommendations.

Top Learnings

From Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

  • Through comprehensive training supplemented with intensive trust-building, mentoring and support, selected members of a crisis-affected community can effectively respond to and refer survivors of sexual violence to services.

  • In order to effectively build awareness and understanding of sexual violence against men and boys, power and gender must be discussed in depth within the cultural context, including gender inequality, violence against women and girls, transphobia, and homophobia.

From urban Kenya

  • Distrust, misconceptions, and competition between host and refugee LGBTQ+ communities can act as a barrier to services for LGBTQ+ refugees. Solidarity-building efforts, such as empathy-building activities and identification of mutual experiences and struggles, can help to build cohesion between and among host and refugee LGBTQ+ communities.

  • Facilitated and well-coordinated safe transportation is important for LGBTQ+ survivors to access sexual violence-related health care. A sustainable transportation voucher system may be effective in urban settings, but should be available for all LGBTQ+ refugees to access health care and should not target sexual violence/gender-based violence (GBV) survivors alone.

From Italy/Bulgaria

  • Linguistic and cultural mediators (LCMs) facilitate mutual understanding between a person or a group of people (e.g., the migrant/refugee population) and a caregiver (e.g., a doctor) by providing two-way verbal translation (interpreting) and helping them overcome cultural barriers. LCMs and interpreters play a key role in facilitating survivors’ access to services, and they can be trained to effectively respond and refer survivors in line with GBV guiding principles.

  • Many LCMs have had personal experiences with loss, trauma, and violence, and are vulnerable to cumulative stress and secondary traumatization from their work. Supervision and self-care techniques can help LCMs manage stress.