Refugees sell sex to survive, says study

KAMPALA. A new study by the Refugee Law Project has found that many refugee women and girls in Kampala are engaged in sex as a survival strategy, which leads to physical, psychological and emotional abuse.The study released on Thursday in Kampala also shows that refugee women and girls continue to suffer sexual and gender violence and are discriminated against by both family and communities.It also notes that most unaccompanied refugee girls do not enjoy children rights as they are ushered into the rigors and responsibilities of adult life at an early stage.

The women refugees, according to the study, are subjected to a range of gender-based violence from sexual assault to forced prostitution or become sex workers to earn income, having exhausted other options available.

Most affected The most affected refugee women are those living in slums across the five divisions of Kampala.

“There is a belief that when refugees live in urban areas, they are self-sustaining but we discovered specific groups need assistance,” said Yusrah Nagujja Kuteesa, the acting Programmme manager, Mental Health and Psychosocial Well-being, Refugee Law Project.

A 2011 report by the Women’s refugees Commission also showed that women refugees engaged in survival sex or lived with older men who provided shelter and food in exchange for sex.The high-risk activity subjects them to physical violence and other health risks.

Recommendations More research. The report recommends more research on topical issues like sexual violence and mental health among urban refugee women and girls in Uganda and the establishment of an appropriate resource base to respond to issues of women and girls followed by coordination, cooperation and support from a wide range of other actors.

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