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Protecting refugee women – from domestic and structural violence

Bild aus der Frauenzeitung

Female refugees, who have been subjected to violence in their countries of origin and during their attempt to flee, are often the victims of continued violence in Germany. Refugee women who have experienced domestic violence are faced by specific problems, which can be different from those experienced by other victims of violence.

Their private and social lives are framed by strict migration policies. Female refugees who filed a joint claim for asylum with their husbands, endanger their migration status should they leave their husbands. In the official hearings that the family has to attend, the reasons for fleeing that are specific to women - such as political persecution of women - are often not mentioned. They are in a difficult situation judicially, socially and financially. Legal barriers often serve to make women dependent on their violent husbands. Women who are subject to government regulations that restrict their freedom of movement within Germany while her asylum claim is pending, are often unable to make use of victim protection measures guaranteed by law.

For these reasons, when planing for long term security, the protection of women from their violent husbands too often becomes subordinated to the question of whether the woman has a chance to develop a secure livelihood in the place that would offer her protection. A frequent concern is that a protection from violence might endanger the long term strategies for human security. Are they on the one hand allowed to go to a women's shelter, but on the other hand banned from changing their place of residence? Women who have to live in mass accomodations in which there are no secure spaces are particularly vulnerable to violence. Women asylum seekers receive little information about their legal rights and existing support structures. In addition to that they experience exclusion, stigmatisation and racism, have to deal with stereotypes, and at the same time try to position themselves as individuals.

Even after the escape from violence, dependency and a loss of autonomy thus remain central feelings as well as a real threat to the security and health of women and children affected by violence.

There has to be a universal condemnation of violence against women in all its manifestations! All women and children affected by violence need to receive fast, non-bureaucratic and adequate protection and support - regardless of their migration status, financial status and language. The living conditions of asylum seekers in mass accomodations are conducive to violence against women. We therefore demand that female asylum seekers be allowed to live in private flats in a location of their choosing.

This article by Tanja Kovacevic can also be found in Zeitung des Hannoverschen Frauenbündnis Ausgabe 2015.

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