AAC : Dossier « Sexual and Reproductive Health in Forced Migration », frontiers Research Topics — LIMITE : 11/​08/​2021


Forced migrants suffer poor health as a result of multiple factors including expe­ri­ences of violence in coun­tries of origin and transit, dangerous and trau­matic migra­tion jour­neys, legal and polit­ical restric­tions on their status and rights, and limited access to social and health services at all stages of migra­tion. When they reach a country of desti­na­tion, there are still signif­i­cant obsta­cles for them to access suffi­cient health care and to realise their right to health. They are often not provided with suffi­cient infor­ma­tion about accessing health services and may face language barriers with lack of trans­la­tors and inter­preters. Those who do not have the required legal docu­men­ta­tion may be refused treat­ment by health service providers. Increasing xeno­phobia and racism within host coun­tries, including xeno­phobic atti­tudes from health care providers them­selves may also provide an obstacle to obtaining health care. However, whilst migra­tion and health has been widely researched in terms of the dangers that it may pose to host coun­tries (for example through the risk that migrants will prop­a­gate HIV within the host popu­la­tion), there is still not enough research on the health inse­cu­ri­ties of migrants them­selves, and in partic­ular a gap in research on the ways that gender inequal­i­ties inter­sect with health inse­cu­ri­ties to produce nega­tive health outcomes for migrant and refugee women.

Women face partic­ular chal­lenges because of gendered struc­tures of violence and inequality at all stages of their migra­tory journey. One area which is partic­u­larly prob­lem­atic is that of refugee women’s sexual and repro­duc­tive health and rights (SRHR), an area which is still under-researched. What little research there is has shown that these women face high maternal mortality, unmet need for family plan­ning, compli­ca­tions following unsafe abor­tion, and gender-based violence, as well as sexu­ally trans­mitted diseases, including HIV. Their vulner­a­bility to poor sexual and repro­duc­tive health outcomes may be height­ened by restric­tive migra­tion laws and poli­cies, lack of knowl­edge on rights in the host country, limited employ­ment or income gener­ating oppor­tu­ni­ties resulting in poverty and economic inse­cu­rity, poor housing and accom­mo­da­tion, and restricted access to health and social services. High levels of domestic violence against these women have also been noted. Further, poor mental health as a result of trauma arising from violence either expe­ri­enced in the context of the conflict precip­i­tating their flight and/​or while on their migra­tion journey may also nega­tively impact their overall SRH. Trans­for­ma­tions in gender norms and rela­tions during migra­tion, and differing gender norms in coun­tries of origin and desti­na­tion may also pose prob­lems in accessing appro­priate SRH healthcare.

This Research Topic seeks both empir­ical and theo­ret­ical arti­cles which address gaps in knowl­edge concerning the deter­mi­nants of refugee women’s SRH, the barriers they face in achieving good SRH, and the strate­gies they may employ in the face of these obstacles.

Keywords : Sexual Health, Repro­duc­tive Health, Forced Migra­tion, Violence, Gender, Refugees, Inse­cu­rity, Services

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