“We have a Broken Heart”: Sexual Violence against Refugees in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya

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This report is relevant for humanitarian practitioners because it details the immediate and pressing needs of refugees with diverse SOGIE in Kenya and can be used to support the development of inclusive prevention and response mechanisms.

Knowledge around sexual and gender based violence in conflict settings is most often limited to cisgender male violence against cisgender women; little is known about the experiences of men and boys, and of people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics. The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) conducted an exploratory study into the experiences of men, boys and trans women living in refugee settings in Mombasa and Nairobi, Kenya. Interviewees had fled conflict in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Somalia.

The report found that conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated by armed groups against men and boys appeared common place in the DRC and South Sudan. Refugees with diverse SOGIESC were at an increased risk of violence–including sexual violence–from family and community members rather than armed groups.

All 26 research participants with diverse SOGIESC ‘spontaneously disclosed’ experiences of sexual victimisation in their countries of origin, and all 26 participants again reported experiencing sexual violence after arriving in Kenya. In Mombasa, sexual exploitation of adolescent boys appeared to be common. Livelihoods barriers contribute to increased vulnerability to sexual exploitation among youth refugees and refugees with diverse SOGIESC.

Sexual violence against men and boys has an impact upon female family and community members: in all three countries of origin, sexual violence against women and girls is widespread and is often a tool of war. Research participants saw connections between men and boys’ experiences of sexual violence and their perpetration of intimate partner violence against women and girls.

The mental and physical health impacts of sexual violence are significant across all genders and age groups. Ridicule and shame are experienced across all groups, and marriage prospects for single men who have experienced sexual violence are limited.

The report found that while there are some high quality services available for men, women and refugees with diverse SOGIESC who have experienced violence in Nairobi, these services cannot meet the demand of the urban refugee population; in Mombasa there are very limited post-sexual violence services available.

Overall, the report found that multiple barriers can prevent refugees from access services, such as lack of documentation, economic hardship, legislative barriers (especially for refugees who have experienced same-sex sexual violence), lack of awareness of availability of services, and socio-cultural barriers.

The report presents these findings in the executive summary, offers recommendations, and then provides a detailed presentation of the methods and research process, and findings.

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"In focus groups, refugees with diverse SOGIESC shared negative encounters with homophobic or transphobic providers and staff, which they said were the primary deterrents to accessing care at health facilities."

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Knowledge around sexual and gender based violence in conflict settings is most often limited to cisgender male violence against cisgender women; little is known about the experiences of men and boys, and of people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics. The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) conducted an exploratory study into the experiences of men, boys and trans women living in refugee settings in Mombasa and Nairobi, Kenya. Interviewees had fled conflict in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Somalia.

The report found that conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated by armed groups against men and boys appeared common place in the DRC and South Sudan. Refugees with diverse SOGIESC were at an increased risk of violence–including sexual violence–from family and community members rather than armed groups.

All 26 research participants with diverse SOGIESC ‘spontaneously disclosed’ experiences of sexual victimisation in their countries of origin, and all 26 participants again reported experiencing sexual violence after arriving in Kenya. In Mombasa, sexual exploitation of adolescent boys appeared to be common. Livelihoods barriers contribute to increased vulnerability to sexual exploitation among youth refugees and refugees with diverse SOGIESC.

Sexual violence against men and boys has an impact upon female family and community members: in all three countries of origin, sexual violence against women and girls is widespread and is often a tool of war. Research participants saw connections between men and boys’ experiences of sexual violence and their perpetration of intimate partner violence against women and girls.

The mental and physical health impacts of sexual violence are significant across all genders and age groups. Ridicule and shame are experienced across all groups, and marriage prospects for single men who have experienced sexual violence are limited.

The report found that while there are some high quality services available for men, women and refugees with diverse SOGIESC who have experienced violence in Nairobi, these services cannot meet the demand of the urban refugee population; in Mombasa there are very limited post-sexual violence services available.

Overall, the report found that multiple barriers can prevent refugees from access services, such as lack of documentation, economic hardship, legislative barriers (especially for refugees who have experienced same-sex sexual violence), lack of awareness of availability of services, and socio-cultural barriers.

The report presents these findings in the executive summary, offers recommendations, and then provides a detailed presentation of the methods and research process, and findings.