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Sexual violence against refugees is widespread. Women and young girls and, less frequently, men and boys are vulnerable to attack, both during their flight and while in exile. They are vulnerable from many quarters and in every case, the physical and psychological trauma that results can only add to the pain of displacement and the bitterness of exile.

UNHCR, which has been mandated to protect and assist refugees worldwide, is acutely aware of the dimensions of the problem. The following guidelines for preventing and responding to sexual violence against refugees are intended to promote more effective ways for all concerned parties to act and react. The intention is to provide UNHCR, non-governmental organizations and other field workers with basic practical advice in areas of medical treatment, psychological support, and legal intervention.

I wish to thank all those who shared valuable comments during the production of these Guidelines. I hope they will make an important contribution to strengthening the efforts of UNHCR, our implementing partners, and host governments to prevent sexual violence and provide more sympathetic and effective responses to this global outrage.

Sadako Ogata

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Geneva, 8 March 1995

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