What works to respond to sexual violence?


Zainab Bangura, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Photo: FCO

The new special issue of Global Health Governance has several articles that chart the gaps in human rights and global health governance. I co-authored this one, with Doris Schopper and Julia Epps, on monitoring and evaluation (M&E) indicators used by humanitarian organizations to track interventions that respond to sexual violence in conflict settings. We compared indicators used by leading humanitarian organizations for programs that provide medical care, mental health care/psychosocial support, and legal aid to survivors.

We found:

  • No clear package of interventions is agreed across all organizations to respond to needs of survivors – as each institution has its own mandate, they each emphasize different things
  • M&E is pretty well defined for medical care for survivors – but M&E for mental health care, psychosocial support, and legal aid are less well defined across organizations
  • The very act of gathering data on sexual violence is itself a high-risk intervention
  • No agreement across institutions on how to interpret an increase in reported cases. Is it a sign that there’s an increase in sexual violence (i.e., programs are failing to prevent attacks) or increased reporting (i.e., reporting and accountability systems are succeeding)?
  • Although everyone agrees that sexual violence is a violation of human rights law, no international organization is providing legal aid to survivors. That work is left to domestic organizations, which may be much more vulnerable to threats and retaliation.

Overall, there’s a clear need to do more to improve the evidence base for which interventions work to respond to survivors’ needs.


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