n Gender and Behaviour - Displaced, homeless and abused : the dynamics of gender-based sexual and physical abuses of homeless Zimbabweans in South Africa

Volume 12, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1596-9231



The aim of this paper is to assess the nature of sexual/physical and gender-based abuse (SPGBV) experienced by displaced Zimbabwean refugees, perpetrators of such abuses and the gender of perpetrators in South Africa. Refugee and Internally displaced persons are interchangeably used in this study. Through in-depth interviews using a questionnaire, data were collected from 125 randomly selected homeless Zimbabwean refugees in Polokwane, Limpopo Province, South Africa. Age of participants ranged from 18 years to 48 years with a mean age of 28.3 years (SD = 6.27). Participants were assessed on demographic variables and sexual and physical abuses measured with the post-migration difficulties checklists developed by the author. The study showed that rape and sexual harassments were common and perpetrators were mainly border and police officers. Sexes of perpetrators were mainly single men. The study also found other forms of abuse including physical. The findings have significant practical implications for refugees in South Africa where xenophobic feelings are high and on the increase. Recommendations are discussed based on the findings of the study including a need for culturally relevant programmes to help refugees cope and deal with traumas they encounter.

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