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Tools for » UNA058 Iraq GBV mitigation and
Project ID:00115192Description:UNA058 Iraq GBV mitigation and
UN Action Agst Sexual Violence
Start Date *: 15 Mar 2019
UN Action Against Sexual Viole
End Date*: 31 Dec 2019
Country: United Nations Project Status: Financially Closed
  Participating Organization:   UNFPA - United Nations Population Fund

UNA058 Improving quality and effective management of GBV mitigation and response services, particularly Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, and training of armed actors in Iraq


Sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, is a problem throughout the world, occurring in every society, country and region. Refugees and internally displaced people are particularly at risk of this violation of their human rights during every phase of an emergency. The systematic use of sexual violence as a method of warfare is well documented and constitutes a grave breach of international humanitarian law. This is also what has been happening in Iraq in the past several years of conflict.

Rape is a form of sexual violence, a public health problem and a human rights violation. Rape in war is internationally recognized as a war crime and a crime against humanity, but is also characterized as a form of torture and, in certain circumstances, as genocide. All individuals, including actual and potential victims of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), are entitled to the protection of, and respect for, their human rights, such as the right to life, liberty and security of the person, the right to be free from torture and inhuman, cruel or degrading treatment, and the right to health. Governments have a legal obligation to take all appropriate measures to prevent sexual violence and to ensure that quality health services equipped to respond to sexual violence are available and accessible to all. Health care providers should respect the human rights of people who have been raped. In addition, health care providers, in collaboration with workers in other sectors, may play a role in the broader community, by identifying and advocating for interventions to prevent rape and other forms of sexual violence, and to promote and protect the rights of survivors. Lack of recognition of rape as a health issue, and non-enforcement of legislation against rape, prevent any real progress towards gender equality.

Survivors may react in any number of ways to such a trauma; whether their trauma reaction is long-lasting or not depends, in part, on how they are treated when they seek help. By seeking medical treatment, including Mental Health and Psychosocial (MHPSS) and physical health treatment, survivors are acknowledging that physical and/or emotional damage has occurred. They most likely have health concerns. The health care provider can address these concerns and help survivors begin the recovery process by providing compassionate, thorough and high-quality medical care, by centring this care around the survivor and her needs, and by being aware of the setting-specific circumstances that may affect the care provided.

In the past three years, the humanitarian crisis in Iraq has been one of the largest and most volatile in the world. In 2014, over 2.5 million people were displaced, an additional one million were forced to flee from 2015 to 2017, and nearly 700,000 people in areas impacted by the conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) were newly displaced. Over 3 million Iraqis are currently displaced across the country.

As in almost all humanitarian crises, women and girls are disproportionately affected. In Iraq, sexual violence was used as a weapon of war by different actors, particularly but not exclusively, by ISIS. Ethnic and religious minorities, particularly the Yazidis and Turkmen Shiite women and girls suffered horrendous and barbaric acts of sexual violence, including sexual slavery, which included setting up slave markets under ISIS rule. Sunni girls were subject to forced marriages, particularly those who were affiliated to families with security force members.

Prior to the 2014 ISIS invasion, many women were already vulnerable, with 10% of households headed by females. An adolescent girl in Iraq especially one in rural areas is less likely to go to second­ary school. An adolescent girl is at high risk of being illiterate; high probability of being married before the age of 18 without her consent; has little or no recourse to protection from further abuse and disempowerment; and faces restricted freedom of physical mobility.

In this humanitarian situation, hundreds of thousands of men, women, girls and boys have been brutalized by violence, denied access to safety and basic services, and subjected to exploitation, harassment, and intimidation. Women and girls face additional vulnerabilities related to their access to minimum services and the additional GBV risks. De facto female-headed households are reported in large numbers due to the separation during the conflict and displacement and prolonged screening, which increases potential risks of GBV and sexual violence among women and girls. Women and girls are also prone to physical and sexual harassment and abuse by the uniformed personnel and sometimes by the host communities. Prolonged crisis and subsequent depletion of resources available to IDPs and refugees have led to the proliferation of negative coping mechanism, including forced prostitution, trafficking, forced labour, survival sex and child/early marriage.

Additionally, working with armed groups, such as the Peshmerga, as well as Coalition forces to ensure that they, as the front line for security and community interaction, are well versed in the principles of GBV and the realities of CRSV, women’s rights, and the services available for women, girls, men and boys who have survived GBV.  This is part of the solution for changing social perceptions of armed groups, as well as countering the impact of flare-ups by Daesh in the country.  Focusing on the troops and combining that capacity building with services to communities will strengthen the trust in armed groups, build the foundation for community-styled policing, and raise the awareness of some parties to the conflict on their obligations under international law regarding the protection of civilians, particularly the most vulnerable.

In this respect, the primary responsibility to ensure that people are protected from violence rests with the Government. Therefore, UNFPA has been collaborating and coordinating with the government counterparts in the past years based on the Country Programme Action Plans signed between the Government of Iraq and UNFPA. One of the Outputs of the current Action Plan is “Strengthened capacity of government and civil society institutions to mitigate and respond to gender-based violence and harmful practices, with a special focus on vulnerable women in humanitarian settings”. This project contributes to the achievement of this Output by continuing to strengthen multi-sectoral response to GBV (health—including MHPSS, psychosocial and legal response) and reviewing policies, legislation and institutional frameworks on practices that are harmful to women, including female genital mutilation. A particular focus will be put, under this project, on providing tools and capacity to institutions and local stakeholders in transitioning to resilience and durable solutions settings. 

Over the years, UNFPA has worked to build capacity of national systems and has very close working relationships with all the relevant government institutions in Kurdistan region and the whole of Iraq. In the recent past, UNFPA has continued to support Kurdistan Government to develop Gender Strategies and implementation plans of four line ministries; supported the development and the roll out of the clinical management of rape (CMR) protocol; and trained uniformed personnel and judges on GBV.  UNFPA has signed operational agreements and work plans with Kurdistan High Council of Women Affairs (KHCWA), Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MOLSA), General Directorate for Combating Violence Against Women (GDCVAW) and has strong working relationship with Iraq Central Government, in particular MOLSA, Ministry of Health (MOH), and Ministry of Interior (MOI). At Central level, UNFPA works in close collaboration with the Women Empowerment Department (WED) under the General Secretariat for the Council of Ministers, MoLSA and the Family Protection Unit (FPU) under the MoI. Thus, UNFPA already has an established partnership with the government agencies and close working relationship with the highest government authorities in the relevant GBV/Gender government units that the proposed project will target.

UNFPA’s partnership with KHCWA supports rolling out of the advocacy campaign for combatting child marriage and female-genital mutilation (FGM) in Kurdistan Region as well as coordination of other government institutions and NGOs involved in child marriage and FGM campaigns, and GBV prevention programmes. UNFPA has been providing support to GDCVAW to strengthen multi-sectoral GBV response through supporting legal services and building capacity of legal and security actors on survivor-centred GBV response, in particular with the establishment of a GBV helpline thanks to the funding from RDPP. With MOLSA, UNFPA is supporting MOLSA women shelters in Kurdistan Region and in Baghdad, through capacity-building of social workers, awareness-raising campaign on GBV issues, and youth development. With MOH, UNFPA has designed and rolled out the CMR Protocol across Kurdistan Region in 2018. With all stakeholders, the GBV Standard Operating Procedures were disseminated through training and workshops during the first half of 2018, again thanks to RDPP’s contribution. These existing partnerships will continue to facilitate smooth and quick start of this project.

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