Three quarters of refugee women ‘have been raped’

By Blaine Williams

Disturbing evidence of rape and sexual abuse among refugee women has been released today.

A report by the Refugee Council found three quarters of refugee women have been victims of rape, in their home country and in the UK, and 15 per cent became pregnant as a result of their ordeal.

Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council said: “We are all aware that rape and sexual violence are commonplace in conflict situations, and our project confirms this. However, what is truly shocking is that women continue to suffer when they come to the UK.”

In addition to these horrifying statistics the report also found 22 per cent of women were sexually abused, 9 per cent have gynaecological problems as a result of the abuse they encountered and 5 per cent gave birth to a child as a result of rape.

The main countries of origin are; Sri Lanka, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and Somalia.

Rape is recognised under international law as a ‘weapon of war’.

It often goes hand in hand with the physical violence carried out in countries undergoing a perpetual civil war.

The women who manage to escape these areas and come to the UK seeking asylum are often faced with other hardships such as destitution and a government that does not recognise their needs, the report says.

The report also claims many of the women who have experienced sexual violence have had their asylum application denied.

The refusal to give asylum to these vulnerable women has subjected them to further forms of sexual violence in the UK, either through forced prostitution or just by lacking a place of safety, the report also finds.

Ms Covey adds: “They [women refugees] struggle to tell their stories, many have their claims for asylum rejected, and many end up sleeping rough or forced to rely on others.

“As a result, some women end up experiencing sexual violence here, the place they thought they would be safe, either by selling themselves to get food and shelter or by ending up in such precarious situations that they are acutely vulnerable to rape and sexual assault.

“This is to our shame. We should be doing all we can to protect these women, offer them help and support, and above all a place of safety where they can rebuild their lives. We hope that through our project we will be able to address some of these issues and help others working with vulnerable women to do the same.”

The Refugee Council’s Vulnerable Women’s Project is a three year scheme funded by Comic Relief working with women who have been the victims of rape and sexual violence, or other extreme trauma, both in their countries of origin and here in the UK.