This report explores the gendered challenges faced by unaccompanied men and boys fleeing conflicts. Prolonged conflict in the Middle East region (such as in countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) has led to millions of refugees seeking safety in neighbouring countries, such as Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Greece. The report focuses on men and boys, arguing that because gender is often used as a synonym for women and girls, men and boy refugees face unique gendered challenges that are not often considered by the humanitarian sector.
The study produced 6 key findings:
- Reduced mobility as a result of lack of documentation and ambiguous legal status
- Precarious work and income as a result of ambiguous legal status. Financial precarity and insecurity compels men and boys, especially unaccompanied men and boys, to turn to survival sex, which puts them at additional risks for violence and discrimination.
- Lack of secure shelter for unaccompanied men and boys, especially sexual and gender minority men and boys (i.e. GBT+ men and boys)
- Increased participation in survival sex in host countries as a result of ambiguous legal status, financial precarity and insecure housing. Survival sex exposes unaccompanied men and boys to widespread violence and social stigma. Harmful cultural and gender stereotypes and lack of services compound this danger
- Increased likelihood of ill mental health among unaccompanied male refugees
- Loss of identity and crisis of masculinity as a result of changed social role: lack of shelter, inability to find dignified work, separation from family unit and psychological distress can cause unaccompanied men and boys in particular to suffer a loss of identity.
The study examines gender-stereotypes within the humanitarian sector, such as that “men can cope” and are often troublemakers, whereas women are more vulnerable. The report discusses the negative impacts of this stereotyping, such as the lack of sexual health and support services for men due to the lack of awareness that men can be victims of sexual violence.
The report includes a number of recommendations for humanitarian implementation agencies, donors and refugee-hosting governments. Notable recommendations include; ensuring humanitarian responses are evidence-based and not assumptions, target support to men and boys, integrate a gender and diversity perspective into all interventions in order to identify and respond to the specific needs of all groups.