Tuesday 23 April 2019
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reliefweb - 8 days ago

Syrian Arab Republic: Guidance Note: Mitigating Protection Risks in IDP Sites Exclusive to Widowed and Divorced Women and Girls (February 2019) [EN/AR]

Source: International Organization for Migration, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Protection Cluster, CCCM Cluster Country: Syrian Arab Republic
1. SUMMARY During the Syrian crisis, a worrying trend emerged in northwest Syria: the establishment of IDP sites exclusive to widowed and divorced women.1 As a consequence of deeply ingrained gender inequality, women and girls continue to experience significant risk of protection violations and are disproportionately affected by multiple and often cooccurring forms of Gender Based Violence (GBV). Amongst this population, widowed and divorced women and girls are a high-risk group with their segregation only further exacerbating this risk of harm. 2. OBJECTIVES This guidance note aims to: Identify the risks faced by widowed and divorced women/girls in female-only Identify the risks faced by male children of widowed and divorced women/girls in female-only Enumerate the responsibilities that humanitarian actors have to protect their Articulate minimum standards that must be met in order to ensure the protection of their rights in site establishment and management interve Provide recommendations to strengthen the protective environment for and ensure the rights of divorced and widowed women and girls and their children in new and existing sites, targeted at: humanitarian actors, humanitarian donors and the Humanitarian Liaison Group, managers of divorced and widowed women and girl-only IDP sites, and donors of said IDP sites.
It is important to note that this guidance note should not be taken as endorsement of the segregation of widowed or divorced women and girls, but seeks to prevent and mitigate harm against this population. 3. BACKGROUND Of the 13.1 million people currently in need in Syria, women and girls are at heightened risk of protection violations such as GBV, which continues to permeate their lives2 . The immediate and long-term impact on women and girls of this eight-year war continues to be both complex and severe. Displaced women and girls, specifically those living in sites, shelters and informal settlements across the country are disproportionately affected by GBV, the most common forms of which are verbal harassment, domestic violence, early marriages and the fear of sexual violence3 .
Widowed and divorced women and girls experience even greater vulnerability to sexual violence, emotional and verbal abuse, forced marriage, polygamy and serial temporary marriages, movement restrictions, economic violence and exploitation as well as other protection violations 4 . The lack of civil status documentation and property-related documents has major implications for widowed and divorced women and girls. For example, access to assistance including shelter and food can be denied on the basis of lack of documentation. In addition, entrenched gender norms that discriminate against widowed and divorced women and girls on the basis of their marital status sanction their separation from other displaced populations. This practice is often justified as a measure for their ‘protection’ and ‘honor’; however, in practice segregation worsens their stigmatization and exacerbates protection risks. Reports of IDP sites exclusive to widowed and divorced women and girl have emerged since at least 2014. These sites vary in size, design and management. In some cases, these female-only sites are arranged in clusters with multiple sites in close proximity. In other cases, widowed and divorced women and girls live in a segregated section of a larger mixed-population IDP site. Informal female-only IDP sites for combatants’ wives also exist and are elaborated on in below paragraphs. While information that the protection cluster and sub clusters have on these sites is not by any means comprehensive, it is understood that many are supported through faith-based charities (e.g. Gulf countries). Local authorities, such as those operating under the Department of Displaced people of the Syrian Salvation Government in Idleb governorate as well as the Turkish authorities (AFAD) in Aleppo governorate are responsible for overall management of some of these sites. In some cases, they identify civilians to assume responsibility for the daily management of the sites in coordination with local authorities, organizations and charities providing services inside the site. Services inside the site are reported to be limited, with little to no delivery of psychosocial support, education or healthcare. Access to these sites by humanitarian actors, including Syrian NGOs, can in principle be negotiated through site mana however, this has proven challenging in part due to resistance to the humanitarian actors’ involvement. Reports indicate a strong need for additional services, in particular shelter, health, GBV prevention and response including women and girls’ safe spaces, as well as support for civil documentation. The gender of staff varies among however, all site management is male. In general, males and females, including in some cases female police officers, provide services. This is despite the intended female-only character of the sites. Strict regulations on behavior and dress are commonly reported for divorced and widowed women and girls, who also face severe movement restrictions. While restrictions vary between sites, in general women and girls must apply for permission to the site management and/or relevant authorities to exit to site. In some cases, only a male relative can submit this r female requests are not accepted. Requests must include information on the intended destination and any associated activities, for example for accessing health services or for work, and what time they will return. Movement outside the site is granted only upon the guarantee of accompaniment either by a male relative and/or another woman, for example a neighbor. In some cases, permission is also only granted for the purpose of accessing health services or visiting family. In some sites it is reported that women and girls may apply to stay overnight outside the however, this does not appear to be universal. Late return to sites may result in the woman or girl being barred from the site or being reprimanded by site authorities. Despite differences amongst sites, reports commonly described the experience of living under these movement restrictions ‘like a prison, and they can’t even bring bread from outside unless someone brings it to them. These restrictions have major implications on women and girls’ access to services as well as income-earning opportunities, which further exacerbates their vulnerability to other forms of violence including sexual exploitation and abuse and reliance on child labor. While children can and do leave to attend school, female children are also required to be accompanied by a male relative, which curtails their attendance. Access to the sites by family members also varies. In some cases, visits from family members are allowed only once or twice a it is unclear whether this too is universal. The presence on male children is also regulated. Children are allowed in sites with their m however, boys are generally forced to leave the sites once they reach adolescence (12-13 years old as reported by protection actors). In the former case, boys are then exposed to further grave protection risks, including recruitment by armed forces or groups, violence, exploitation, child labor, and additional threats to their general psychological well-being. Widows live in fear of losing their children and worry about their sons’ future, especially when they have lost links to their extended family. In cases where a mother leaves with her son, both may experience increased risk of exposure to protection violations, including but not limited to GBV and child protection-related violence. In addition to this, regulations on women’s dress, including the prohibition on the wearing of makeup as well as obligatory attendance at sharia classes, are reportedly enforced in some of these sites. Women and girls are said to face ‘punishment’ enforced by police and/or site authorities when they fail to adhere to these rules. It is important to note that women and girls expressed mixed feelings towards residing in these sites. In many situations, they end up in IDP exclusive sites for widowed and divorced female only after exhausting all other options. The lack of ongoing free accommodation amongst host communities, high rental costs combined with lack of income earning opportunities, and/or conflict with family members (or family in law members) who host female IDPs are the most common reasons divorced and widowed women and girls seek alternative shelter. The aforementioned restrictions and regulations, in particular forced family separation and movement restrictions, are the primary deterrent from entering the site, with some women and girls choosing to remain on the street. However,some women and girls also articulate a greater sense of safety inside these sites in part due to the policing of their perimeters and the relative quality of shelters to which they have access inside the sites.
In contained sites, security inside falls under the purview of site management and guards employed to patrol the borders of the sites. Women and girls commonly live in houses, which can be locked from the inside, rather than tents. Harassment and exploitation of women and girls Women and girls living in these sites are more vulnerable to harassment and exploitation than women residing in other arrangements. Harassment and exploitation of women and girls by men outside the site is commonly reported in IDP exclusive sites for widowed and divorced females. This includes in-person when women and girls leave the site either to access services or in the context of an arranged meeting for the purposes of sexual exploitation and abuse, such as survival sex. Reports of men using photos of women and girls residing inside the site to commit harassment and exploitation of them via mobile phones have also been made.


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