Visibility at risk for women as rights-holders : a study with regard to a refugee camp context

Abstract: By taking the recognition of persons as rights-holders in the framework of international human rights into account, this study directs its attention to women in protracted refugee situations, restricted to stay in camps also when their human rights are at risk due to various forms of violence. The question in focus is the following: To what extent may there be a risk that women in a refugee camp context, distinguished by a protracted refugee situation, do not become visible as rights-holders and entrusted to act with regard to international human rights and the problem of violence against women, especially domestic violence?The research process has taken the form of a continuous dialogue with the material for the study, a dialogue directing attention to material from an established international human rights system on one hand and material dealing with a local refugee camp context on the other. The study finds its entry-point primarily in the context of the international human rights treaty the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), including the work of the CEDAW Committee as a treaty body, and also the international mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences. Due to the presence of a variety of justice mechanisms in the camps, certain aspects of a local customary law tradition are also addressed. The existence of an unlocked legal door for women to take actions in family law matters, or in cases of gender-based violence is something not to take for granted. The hindrances could lie deep in the legal system practiced. It could be an issue of not being entrusted by the structure of the system to act in person, as woman, with a legal capacity and by own right before the law.The study underlines the importance of sharpened awareness and analysis of the presence of a complex legal context and a variety of customary law traditions in the camps. It appears from the study that for women in a refugee camp to be able to act as rights-holders and claim human rights as laid down in human rights conventions, the issue of visibility is not only a matter of training in presenting facts on the ground in front of local authorities. To be visible in addressing the problem of gender-based violence and gaps in protection of human rights in a refugee camp context is first and foremost an issue for women to be recognized the right to act in legal matters. It is an issue of having the freedom of expression and to be recognized the social and legal status to act in their own capacity in front of the local legal structures, including the local customary law context, and to address international human rights monitoring mechanisms, such as the CEDAW Committee or the Special Rapporteur.