Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a pandemic which violates human rights across communities around the world. Rohingya women and girls who fled to Bangladesh following severe rights violations enacted upon them by the Myanmar military in 2017 continue to live with the threat of violence in Cox’s Bazar. Data from the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) programmes demonstrates that the risks they face are likely to be compounded by the spread of COVID-19 and the steps taken to mitigate against it.

This report uses data collected from the IRC’s women’s centres and health programme sites in 19 camps across Cox’s Bazar to assess trends in rates of GBV. The IRC’s analysis shows that even before the COVID-19 crisis, reported rates of GBV in the camps were at least in-line with global levels despite the enormous social, cultural and psychological barriers faced by women and girls when reporting incidents.

81% of GBV in the Rohingya camps is perpetrated by intimate partners, while 56% of incidents are physical violence. With lockdown leaving women and girls trapped in domestic settings, rates of GBV will only increase. These levels of gender-based violence experienced by Rohingya women and girls provide a stark illustration of the global shadow pandemic that COVID-19 has exacerbated.

Summary of recommendations:

  • The Government of Bangladesh to designate all critical GBV services as essential and work with implementing agencies to adapt services in light of social distancing restrictions, to allow for continuity of service provision throughout the pandemic.
  • Donors to triple funding for GBV prevention and response activities to meet existing needs and expand programming to address unmet needs, ensuring funding is made available for prevention activities that engage and work with men and boys to address harmful gender norms and mandating the use of sex and age-disagreggated data.
  • UN agencies and NGOs to support women and girls to be at the forefront of participation in decision-making processes during the COVID-19 response, including in the design and delivery of programmes to improve community engagement and trust in mitigation interventions.
  • All actors involved in the response should continue to address site-management issues, including the lack of lighting, that put women and girls at risk of GBV through the provision of adequate funding to relevant operational partners.