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