Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


George Andreopoulos

Subject Categories

International Relations


Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Refugees, Accountability


Sexual and gender-based violence is a rampant issue affecting women internationally. Its incidence is exacerbated by conflict and the disruption of social patterns caused by displacement. Refugee women are often at greater risk of violence, due to their transient status in their countries of refuge. There exist many challenges in the protection of refugee women. The erosion of the refugee regime through the securitization of displacement has led to the depiction of displaced populations as threats rather than populations in need of humanitarian assistance. Additionally, there remain systemic social and cultural barriers at both international and local levels based on patriarchal values and unequal treatment of women within society. States as the primary actors tasked with upholding international human rights and humanitarian standards, especially in regards to the rights of refugee populations, have continued to evade their protectionist obligations. The charge of protection has been taken up by non-state actors, such as UNHCR, who have taken a principal role in both ensuring rights are upheld through programs on the ground and by serving as promoters of protectionist norms in international fora.

This study analyzes existing law and norms regarding sexual and gender-based violence as they apply to refugee women. It seeks to understand if there has been spillover of laws protecting all women from violence to the safeguarding of protections for refugee women. The study does so through an analysis of treaty law, norms, and the actions of non-state actors in promulgating protections. Ten case studies are analyzed in-depth, to determine the applicability of law and norms in monitoring states’ preservation of rights. The study’s purpose is to increase understanding of existing legal resources supporting the prevention and punishment of violence, while discussing the gaps in protection that continue to leave women vulnerable to abuse. Further, this paper delves into the evolution of sexual and gender-based violence norms and potential areas of improvement in increasing protections for refugee women.