Syrian Women & Girls: Fleeing death, facing ongoing threats and humiliation: A Gender-based Violence Rapid Assessment

Publication language
Date published
01 Aug 2012
Research, reports and studies
Gender, Protection, human rights & security, Forced displacement and migration
Lebanon, Syria

Syrian women and girls coming to Lebanon are at increased risk of multiple forms of violence due to generalized insecurity and limited access to support. IRC’s rapid GBV assessment highlighted the myriad and severe protection issues women and girls faced before leaving Syria, and since arriving in Lebanon.

General Protection Concerns:

  • Many newly arrived women and girls are living in unplanned and overcrowded refugee settlements, with minimal privacy and compromised safety, particularly among those refugee populations inhabiting abandoned public buildings.
  • Minimal coordination and lack of adherence to international standards of humanitarian assistance have hindered women’s and girls’ ability to access services. Discrimination and mistreatment are key barriers to accessing services.

Gender-based Violence:

  • Rape and sexual violence were identified by focus groups and key informants alike as the most extensive form of violence faced by women and girls while in Syria. Women reportedi that acts of sexual violence were frequently perpetrated within homes, and coupled with other forms of physical assault, torture, kidnapping, and sometimes murder, and often in the presence of male family members.
  • Intimate partner violence (IPV), early marriage and survival sex were identified by adult women and adolescent girls as other forms of violence currently experienced by women and girls since arriving in Lebanon. Adult female participants in several focus groups reported that IPV has increased since their arrival in Lebanon, while adolescent girls stated that early marriages have increased, most frequently framed as efforts by families to “protect” girls from being raped, or to ensure that they are “under the protection of a man.”1 Survival sex, typically linked to women’s and girls’ desperate need to access income to cover the increased cost of living since arriving in Lebanon, was also identified as a type of violence frequently experienced by Syrian women and girls.

Inability to Safely Access Support and Services:

  • Survivors are reluctant to report GBV, due to restrictive cultural values and stigma. Women, girls, and key informants reported that survivors would be very unlikely to seek support due to the shame, fear and “dishonor” to their families. Women risk further physical and sexual violence, including death, often from their own families, when reporting GBV, a pattern that exists in many contexts in which “dishonor” and “disgrace” are considered to further compromise women’s and girls’ safety and exposure to ongoing violence.
  • Women and girls have restricted access to information about availability of services and support, particularly those that are relevant to survivors of gender-based violence. Key informants strongly agreed that there are few services currently in place specifically designed to meet the needs of survivors of GBV or that are accessible to Syrian refugees.