The Assessment of GBV in eight conflict affected governorates of Iraq was commissioned in 2016 by the GBV Sub-Cluster (under the Protection Cluster of the UN humanitarian response in Iraq) chaired by UNFPA. The Assessment started in April 2016 and covered a desk research as well as a 10-day data collection mission to Iraq’s Kurdistan Region.
The Assessment addresses one of the major gaps in humanitarian response to GBV in Iraq: the limited knowledge is one of the major challenges faced by GBV service providers, and limited access to available services in camp and non-camp environments. Closer examination of these challenges through situational analysis is essential to support and better inform the design of prevention and response interventions, develop data-driven solutions for the problems encountered by service providers in Iraq’s diverse socio-economic, political and cultural contexts.
Methodology of the Assessment: The Assessment used the following four research questions in order to structure the data collection process;
1. What are the most prevalent (commonly reported) patterns and trends of GBV experienced by IDP/refugee communities in the conflict-affected areas?
2. What are the pathways selected by the survivors of GBV?
3. What are the barriers (attitudinal, institutional, legislative, financial and logistical) impeding GBV survivors from accessing services? What are the facilitating factors?
4. What are the primary gaps in coordinated multi-agency prevention, mitigation and response to GBV in selected areas?
The Assessment of GBV in eight conflict affected governorates of Iraq was commissioned in 2016 by UNFPA on behalf of the GBV Sub-cluster (under the Protection Cluster of the UN humanitarian response in Iraq). The Assessment research started in April 2016 and covered a desk research as well as a 10 day data collection mission to Iraq’s Kurdistan Region.
The goal of the Assessment was to establish factors limiting the access of IDPs and refugees (focusing on women and girls) to services available for GBV survivors in eight conflict affected governorates of Iraq (Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk, Najaf, Kerbala, Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaymaniyah) and identify the gaps in service provision.
Data collection for the study covered focus group discussions, key informant interviews and group interviews with beneficiaries and service providers from key sectors (health, law enforcement, judiciary and psychosocial support).
The results of the current Assessment are envisioned to a) improve the quality of a multi-sectoral response to GBV (covering healthcare, legal assistance, psychosocial support safety and security) in Iraq delivered by government entities, international and national NGOs; b) improve the design of GBV prevention and mitigation interventions and c) support IDP and refugee communities in developing a dialogue with service providers on accountability and efficient service delivery.
The Assessment revealed several common characteristics in GBV trends across all selected governorates. Significantly, the findings of the Assessment (based on FGDs and KIIs) support the data provided by GBV IMS. GBV is pervasive in IDP and refugee communities across all governorates and disproportionately affects women and girls. Violence directed at women and girls within family is normalized and legitimized by survivors, perpetrators and communities through reference to cultural and religious norms. Husbands are most commonly named as perpetrators. Mother-in-laws and father-in-laws were also frequently brought up in FGDs as common GBV perpetrators.
The Assessment found that GBV survivors are most open to talking about psychological violence and seeking psychosocial help. Disclosure of sexual violence (most stigmatized form GBV) is rare and can have a very serious, at times tragic, repercussions for survivors’ (including honor-killing of a sexual violence survivor by her by family members). GBV Sub-cluster partners and the Ministry of Health prepared a protocol for the Clinical Management of Rape, an important guidance for mainstreaming sexual violence response in public healthcare services across the country. Yezidi women who survived a conflict related sexual violence (CRSV) at the hands of ISIS are often open to seeking help, because they enjoy the support of religious leaders of their community. CRSV survivors have special needs and require a special set of services with strong focus on psychological rehabilitation. To address this crucial need UNFPA supported DOH in establishing and strengthening a Center that delivers confidential services for survivors of sexual violence.
The Assessment found that public services available for GBV survivors often remain underutilized by IDP and refugee women and girls. According to data from Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and Key Informant Interviews (KIIs), the majority of IDP/refugee women and girls suffering from violence do not disclose it. When it comes to seeking protection from domestic violence specifically, survivors tend to go to their own family members. Going through family and community-based mediation, protection and conflict resolution mechanisms is by far the most common pathway selected by IDP/refugee women and girls. The Assessment identified family and community based pathways used by GBV survivors. It is important to understanding unique family structures and cultural norms of various ethno-religious communities and engage family and tribal mechanisms as allies in enhancing women’s access to services.
Women Community Centers (“safe spaces” or other NGO/INGO run community spaces) with psychosocial support and referrals to healthcare present the second most common pathway for GBV survivors. Compared to other pathways, women and girls rarely chose to go to police to seek justice and protection from GBV. The Assessment data suggests that the decision to stay away from police is linked to pervasive mistrust of police among IDP and refugee communities. Psychological support is the service sought by the majority of IDP/refugee women visiting “safe spaces”. However, women prefer to accept psychological support when it comes in combination with services that benefit their children or families. Accepting support that benefits them individually is often regarded as incompatible with women’s cultural role as a care-giver. Service-providers found that combining psychological support with vocational/ recreational activities, or children related activities makes it easier for the beneficiaries to accept and remove the possible stigma.
Examination of the pathways selected by IDP and refugee women suffering from GBV, demonstrated that public services available for GBV survivors remain largely underutilized. GBV survivors can’t access services because of cultural, social, and organizational barriers. The factors vary for different governorates. The Assessment found that religious or cultural restrictions on women’s mobility in public space, cultural (specifically linguistic) and physical isolation, erosion of social networks and shortage of personal time limit IDP women’s chance to seek help. The Assessment identified several gaps in organization of coordinated GBV response among the key sectors (healthcare, law enforcement, judiciary, and psychosocial help). The study also revealed a number of good practices and facilitating factors generated by good policies and quality service delivery.
Each governorate presents a unique environment for GBV response due to larger structural factors -- population composition (demographic, tribal, sectarian), displacement trends, prevailing shelter arrangements for IDPs and refugees, security situation, urban-rural balance and economic environment. The Assessment developed profiles for each of eight conflict affected governorates and highlighted structural challenges and facilitating factors that impact access to services in each governorate. Finally, the Assessment examined legislative barriers to service access.
The Assessment found that the GBV Sub-cluster maintained a good level of coordination on the central, regional and governorate level. In a constantly changing complex humanitarian context, the Sub-cluster was able to develop a coherent vision, goals and objectives that reflect priorities of GBV response in Iraq’s humanitarian crisis. At the same time the process of decentralizing coordination is unfolding successfully: GBV Sub-cluster members are currently working to set up WG for all governorates. In addition, there is a discussion of camp level WGs. The GBV Sub-cluster maintained regular communication routine and organized sound coordination and information sharing system. The roll out and use of the GBV IMS system for data collection, sharing and analysis is one of the tasks successfully accomplished by Sub-cluster members. Other good practices include: development and sharing of referral paths, use of guidance notes to streamline GBV indicators into the reporting and the joint maintenance of service mapping by GBV Sub-cluster members. SOPs for GBV response are currently under review and the Clinical Management of Rape protocol will shortly be introduced into the hospital operations not only in KR-I, but across the whole country.
The Assessment found several areas in need of improvement. Not all sub-cluster members regularly report about their activities. There are some delays in updating service maps. The coordination between GBV Sub-cluster and Child Protection Sub-cluster in attending to the needs of adolescent girls and boys needs to be strengthened. The Development of the Adolescent Girls Tool Kit is an example of a good practice in joining the efforts of two sub-clusters.