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Both during their migration journey and in their host communities, Venezuelan women/girls (taken to include adolescents), face risks of gender-based violence (GBV) such as intimate partner violence (IPV), early unions, sexual assault, transactional sex, and harassment, as well as forced sex work, and survival sex to access basic goods and services. Like other parts of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic increased these risks for women/girls due to increased economic strain, living in closed quarters with potential abusers, reduced security, and restricted mobility resulting from public health preventative policies.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) leads the humanitarian response to the Venezuelan crisis along with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). IOM’s anecdotal experience has highlighted that women/girls affected by GBV are often not able to access medical care and psychosocial support along the migration routes. Accessibility has been even further reduced as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. This lack of sexual and reproductive health services and mental health support means GBV survivors are at risk for unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and psychological distress. Thus, many women/girls suffer alone due to the stigma and shame experienced after GBV.

For three years, IOM and Queen’s University have been collaborating on a joint research initiative with the objective of providing more efficient mixed-method data regarding the GBV risks faced by Venezuelan women/girls, including sexual assault, survival sex, and human trafficking. The project’s purpose was to improve the safety, well-being, and sexual and reproductive health of female Venezuelan refugees/migrants through more efficient data collection and analysis, allowing for more responsive programming.

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