Research Summary


University logos of Saint Mary's, University of Guelph, University of Manitoba, University of New Brunswick and GenderNet Plus

Violence Against Women Migrants and Refugees: Analysing Causes and Effective Policy Response

CIHR Team Grant: Gender-Net Plus 

Theme and Perspective: Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a major violation of women’s human rights, and an obstacle to sustainable development as set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SGBV against migrant and refugee women is widespread, but often invisible and under-analysed both in academic research and in policy-making. This research will take an intersectional approach to understand SGBV in migration, analyzing the ways in which discriminations and inequalities based on gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and age, interact to make certain women more vulnerable to SGBV and less able to access support and services for survivors than others. While SGBV may be a cause of migration for some women, migrant and refugee women may also be subject to SGBV on their journeys and in countries of transit and destination by smugglers, traffickers, security forces or fellow migrant, and even domestic and intimate partners. Furthermore, women’s vulnerability to SGBV may be exacerbated by (i) policies aiming to restrict migration, or to increase control of borders; and (ii) conditions of reception, and policies for integration of migrants and refugees in receiving countries. SGBV is a major cause of ill health for women. Considering migration as a social determinant of health, the program will examine the ways in which health policies might lead to increased vulnerability and focus on how health providers can help to mitigate risks and provide services to a marginalized and yet increasingly significant population of women. Conceptualizing migrant and refugee women also as active agents with their own individual and collective strategies, the research will focus on understanding how policy makers and service providers can better support them in preventing SGBV and mitigating its impacts, including negative health and social consequences.

Objectives and Methodologies: The international Consortium-based 3-year program aims at a systematic and comprehensive comparative analysis of the ways in which (A) various policy frameworks, social and cultural attitudes to migration, as well as the migration process itself, can combine to increase vulnerabilities to SGBV and (B) governments, NGOs or regional and international policy-making institutions could help to mitigate the risks, protect women and provide better services to survivors. Key objectives include: (i) analysis of causes of SGBV along the migration journey; (ii) estimate of prevalence of different forms of SGBV among various groups; (iii) analysis of the impact of policies on women’s vulnerability to SGBV; (iv) assess current state of services (v) explore how women use their agency through individual and collective action (vi) analyze existing international norms and conventions relating to SGBV and assess their efficacy. These objectives are to be accomplished by national research teams within the EU and outside (Canada, Israel) at the national level first and then comparatively and transnationally, through: state-of-the-art literature reviews and analysis of existing statistics on migrant and refugee women and SGBV; policy analysis and key informant interviews; mapping of migrant and refugee women’s associations; surveys of migrant and refugee women to determine types and frequency of SGBV; qualitative interviews with migrant and refugee women about their experiences, beliefs and impacts of SGBV, as well as interactions with service providers; and through qualitative interviews with healthcare providers. The knowledge mobilization package includes an edited book, an international conference, academic articles in refereed journals in English and other languages, regular research and policy reports, a website, as well as restitution of findings to migrant and refugee women and women’s associations in the various countries and sites.

The Canadian (national) program will be carried out by a team of four leading researchers in four institutions across the country. The nominated PI will coordinate the program’s activities, provide leadership in the research process in Canada and liaise and collaborate with the international team. Research carried out in Canada will be along the lines of the international project, while ensuring that all activities specifically address the identified health priorities of call topic 1.3 of the GENDER-NET PLUS ERA-NET COFUND. The inclusion of Canada, with its unique and pioneering policies on migrant and refugee resettlement, in the larger project will provide valuable comparative data, relevant to policy makers and service providers on both sides of the Atlantic.