Forced Sexual Intercourse Among Internally Displaced Women in Azerbaijan

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Forced Sexual Intercourse Among Internally Displaced Women in Azerbaijan

– Reported, January 23, 2013


 Previous reports have shown that forced sexual intercourse and other forms of gender-based violence are a persistent public health problem for refugee or internally displaced women. (Internal displacement is defined as forced relocation within a person’s country of citizenship because of some catastrophic event.) In some settings, the proportion of refugee or internally displaced women reporting some type of gender-based violence exceeds 60%. Sexual violence against refugee or internally displaced women can cause women to flee their homelands. Unfortunately, these women are not always safe from harm after their relocation or after resettlement. Investigation of sexual violence affecting these women, its incidence, prevalence, and correlates is critical to the development of effective treatment and prevention strategies.

One of every 5 women in this study reported being forced to have sexual intercourse in the past year. Women who had been physically attacked, had had at least 1 abortion, and had syndromic diagnoses of genital ulcers or lower abdominal pain were more likely to have recently experienced forced sexual intercourse.

The prevalence of forced sexual intercourse in this study group is similar to that cited in reports from other refugee settings. Our clinical and sexual/reproductive health findings are similar to those in other reports: women who have experienced forced sexual intercourse are at increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, genital irritation, pelvic pain, urinary tract infections, physical abuse, mistimed/unwanted pregnancies, and abortions.

The high prevalence of forced sexual intercourse calls for vigilance among providers to ensure appropriate treatment and referral of victims of sexual violence. Further study of sexual violence toward women is needed to elucidate the problem and to lay the foundation for eliminating it.

Jamila Kerimova, MD, Samuel F. Posner, PhD, Y. Teresa Brown, MPH, Susan Hillis, PhD, Susan Meikle, MD, and Ann Duerr, MD, PhD, MPH


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