Sexual and Gender-based Violence in the Refugee Crisis: Vulnerabilities, Inequalities and Responses

Primary investigator in Sweden: Professor Hannah Bradby

Primary investigator: Professor Jenny Phillimore University of Birmingham, UK

Other investigators: Dr Saime Ozcurumez and Dr Selin Akyuz, Bilkent University, Turkey; Hoayda Darkal and Dr Lisa Goodson, University of Birimgham, UK; Professor Bernadette McSherry, Dr Karen Block and Dr Cathy Vaughan, University of Melbourne, Australia

Funding: Europe and Global Challenges Programme, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond

Duration: March 2018 – March 2021

Project description: The past few years have seen the forced displacement of people from around the world on an unprecedented scale. Sexual and gender based violence has been a key feature of the experience of forced migrants yet one which has attracted little attention from policymakers and practitioners.  Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) includes rape and sexual assault, as well as physical, psychological or emotional violence; forced marriage; forced sex work; and denial of resources, opportunities, services and freedom of movement on the basis of socially ascribed gender roles and norms.  

The SEREDA Project aims to understand the nature and means of assessing the incidence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) experienced by refugees who have fled conflict and are residing in countries of refuge. The study has a number of phases which include interviewing forced migrants (whether documented or not) who have experience SGBV about what they feel needs to happen, interviewing “stakeholders” who work with survivors and running some workshops to explore potential recording mechanisms and recommendations for interventions at different stages in the journey.

The SEREDA project is focusing initially on refugees originating from the MENA region but is exploring the possibility of expansion to include refugees originating beyond this region. The research will increase understanding of the incidence and nature of sexual and gender-based violence experienced by refugees, to strengthen mechanisms for recognising and recording the extent of sexual and gender-based violence, and for providing appropriate responses – particularly within countries of refuge. The project will examine how the health and social consequences of sexual and gender-based violence are identified and treated, and how they shape inequalities in life chances in different countries of refuge and as refugees seek to integrate.

The project is being conducted in partnership with national and international NGOs providing services and support to refugees who have experienced violence, including the Women’s Refugee Commission, Doctors of the World, Foundation House and the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM).

Project website:

Working paper

Ozcurumez, S., Bradby, H. and Akyuz, S. (2018) What is the nature of SGBV?, IRiS Working Paper Series, No. 27/2019, Birmingham: Institute for Research into Superdiversity 

Publications (in English):

Hourani J, Block K, Phillimore J, Bradby H, Ozcurumez S, Goodson L and Vaughan C (2021) Structural and Symbolic Violence Exacerbates the Risks and Consequences of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence for Forced Migrant Women. Front. Hum. Dyn 3:769611. doi: 10.3389/fhumd.2021.769611

Ozcurumez, S., Akyuz, S. and Bradby, H. (2020) The Conceptualization problem in research and responses to sexual and gender-based violence in forced migration, Journal of Gender Studies

Akyuz, S. and Bradby, H. (2021) The views of forced migrant survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in Sweden, IRiS Working Paper 47(2021) [PDF)

Akyuz, S. and Bradby, H. (2020) SGBV in the Governance of Forced Migration: Service Providers’ Perspective in Sweden, IRiS Working paper 45 (2020) 

Last modified: 2021-12-01