Violence against women migrants and refugees (GBV-MIG)

GENDER-NET Plus Joint Call in Gender and UN Sustainable Development Goals

Austrian Team: Sieglinde Rosenberger, Madita Erdmann, Leila Hadj-Abdou


Consortium Members: CRESPPA Université Paris 8 France (PI), National University of Ireland Galway, St. Mary’s University Halifax, Oriental Insitute at Czech Academy of Sciences, University of Vienna, Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies Oslo, Bar-Ilan University Tel Aviv

Project website:

Project duration: March 2019 – May 2022

Funding institution: Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF), Horizon 2020

Advisory board: Evelyn Probst (LEFÖ), Rosa Logar (Domestic Abuse Intervention Centre Vienna), Mary Kreutzer (Caritas Wien), Katharina Beclin (Lawyer and Professor at University of Vienna), Sabine Mandl (Researcher at Ludwig-Boltzman-Institut for Human Rights), Birgit Wolf (Lecturer University of Vienna, Researcher)


About the project

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a major infringement of women’s human rights, and an ob-stacle to sustainable development as set out in the SDGs. GBV against migrant and refugee women is widespread, but often remains invisible and under-analysed both in academic re-search and policy-making. This research attempts to understand GBV in the context of migra-tion, analysing the ways in which discriminations and inequalities based on gender, race, na-tionality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and age, interact to make certain wom-en more vulnerable to GBV and less able to access support and services for survivors than others. GBV may be exacerbated by policies aiming to restrict migration, or to increase control of borders, which can push women into adopting dangerous routes to arrive in their country of destination. Conflict and the risks of migration may also render women vulnerable to traffick-ing and sexual exploitation. Conditions of reception, and policies for integration in receiving countries may also lead to increased risk of GBV for migrant and refugee women. But these women are not just “victims”, and their strategies and agency are to be explored. In sum, while we know that women refugees are particularly exposed to violence, we lack a systematic understanding of the underlying dynamics that (re)produce patterns of violence.

At the University of Vienna, we are concerned with three strands of research. First, we look at the public discourse around GBV against women refugees by conducting a frame and policy analysis. We mirror respective insights with interviews conducted with practitioners from national and local actors, such as NGOs and local communities. Central to the project is the involvement of participants who have witnessed or have been exposed to different forms of GBV, be it structural or physical violence. Finally, we engage with conceptual and methodological challenges and concerns which arise when conducting research on refugees and GBV, in general. 


Project related publications

  • Standke-Erdmann, M., Pieper, M., Rosenberger, S. (2022). Countering 'Their' Violence: Framing Gendered Violence Against Women Migrants in Austria. In: Freedman, J., Sahraoui, N., Tastsoglou, E. (eds) Gender-Based Violence in Migration. Interdisciplinary, Feminist and Intersectional Approaches. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, p. 59–83. (Online Abrufbar)
  • Stanke-Erdmann, Madita/ Rosenberger, Sieglinde: Genderbasierte Gewalt an Migrantinnnen, in Societal Impact Plattform (Online abrufbar)
  • Stanke-Erdmann, Madita/ Rosenberger, Sieglinde: Die blinden Flecken der Migrationspolitik, in: scilog (Magazin des Wissenschaftsfonds FWF) (Online abrufbar)
  • Stanke-Erdmann, Madita/ Gassner, Beate/ Rosenberger, Sieglinde. (2020). Country Report Austria. A Status Quo.
  • Contribution to oiip und CARE Austria Policy Paper regarding the EU-Action Plan on the Women, Peace and Security Resolution (UNSCR 1325 ff.).


Standke-Erdmann, M., Pieper, M., Rosenberger, S. (2022): Abstract

  • The chapter investigates how political actors and the media frame gendered violence against migrant women by analysing discursive interlinkages between migration policies and policies countering gendered violence. We take the discursive and policy landscape in Austria a relevant example to study. Drawing on the concept of gender nationalism and based on media and public policy material (2018–2019), the analysis elucidates how the framing of 'their' violence becomes established by identifying cultural peculiarities that lay ground to a phenomenon assumed foreign to the host society. We demonstrate how strategies of culturalising as problem definition and individualising on the level of solutions strengthen gender-nationalist narratives through a common denominator of racialisation and lay ground to restrictions and sanctions in migration policy.

Project Related Activities

  • Exhibition: Sanja Iveković. Works of Heart (1974–2022)

    • From 4th of October 2022 till 12th of March 2023 the exhibition 'Works of Heart' from the artist Sanja Iveković is exposed at Kunsthalle Wien. Her artist practice has a clear feminist and activist position and she continously confronts issues of gender and politics. The project Gender Based Violence has published a short text about Gender-based Violence against Women Refugees in Austria which is visible at the exhibition.
  • IPW Lecture Jane Freedman

    • On 28 October 2021, Professor Jane Freedman (CRESPPA, Université-Paris 8 Vincennes), principal investigator of the project, held an onsite hybrid IPW lecture about the French team’s project-related research on gender-based violence against migrant and refugee women. Over the course of the summer 2021, the team had conducted ethnographic fieldwork at different locations along the Italo-French borders to unearth the gendered and racialized expressions of gender-based violence in border contexts, the militarized and often precarious circumstances under which migrants, and especially women, attempt to travel through these regions as well as the lack of infrastructure in support of their needs.
  • Presentation of commissioned study on “Intersectionality and refugee women. The shortcomings of the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum from an intersectional perspective” (2021) by Madita Standke-Erdmann, Heinrich-Böll Foundation Brussels

    • This contribution sheds an intersectional feminist perspective on the European Commission’s (EC) New Pact on Migration and Asylum. By engaging with the definitory and conceptual unclarities as to who the Pact defines as “especially vulnerable groups” and according to which criteria, it critically examines some of the gendered and racialized notions about migrants embedded in and institutionalized through the Pact. By illustrating how the EC has little understanding of what being “vulnerable” means, what implications the uncritical adoption of this term can have and what consequences respective measures can have for migrants, this paper makes a relevant contribution to ongoing debates with regard to the EU’s future migration and border politics.
    • Madita Standke-Erdmann presented this study at the Heinrich-Böll Foundation in Brussels on 9 November 2021 to an audience of NGO and civil society actors

  • “Germany Should Acknowledge and Counter Violence Against Refugee Women at the EU’s Borders” (2020) by Madita Standke-Erdmann, PeaceLab Blog, GPPi

    • For many refugee women, borders are spaces of violence and insecurity. Germany should acknowledge the risk of gender-based violence at EU borders in its new National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, address colonialism as a cause of migration, and recognize its resulting historical responsibility. The government should use the action plan as more than a foreign policy tool.
    • This blog is part of the GPPi’s PeaceLab blog which engaged in new perspectives on peace and security with a particular focus on the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 ff. which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2020.
  • Constitution of Advisory Board
    • On 20 January 2020, we invited a group of experts on inter alia violence prevention, human trafficking, law and migration to form the Austrian project’s advisory board. During a three-hour discussion, initial feedback and advice on the research design and related pressing issues was given. The board will provide the team with valuable, in part practice-oriented, advice on the research progress and is scheduled to gather for a second meeting in mid-next 2021.  
  • Workshop at Austrian Institute for International Affairs (oiip) and CARE Austria on the EU-Action plan and 20th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Res. 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
    • On 12 November 2019, Madita Erdmann joined a group of researchers, policy makers, civil society actors, development and aid agencies and representatives of Austrian ministries to discuss the future implementation of the UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in and outside of Austria. Amongst other points, the issue of migration, asylum and violence were discussed from various points of view. The group will meet again soon to continue the discussion on recommendations regarding the resolution’s implementation.
  • HDIM Conference at the OSCE in Warsaw: Madita Erdmann talks about Gender-based violence against refugee women
    • On 20 September 2019, Madita Erdmann addressed current challenges to overcoming gender-based violence against refugee women at a side event of the Human Dimension Implementation Meetings (HDIM), organized by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the OSCE in Warsaw. She illustrated some of the interconnections between pressing issues such as climate change, conflict-induced migration and gender-based violence and how these have become a key challenge for the OSCE region already. Emphasizing “GBV- MIG’s” bottom-up approach, she called for the importance of agency and participation of women refugees and the recognition of intersections of different forms of discrimination in the process of countering gender-based violence. She concluded that this would also imply to rethink common concepts of security in the context of migration and gender-based violence.
  • Presentation of the project at the 18. kritnet „Netzwerk Kritische Migrations- und Grenzregimeforschung“ (network critical migration- and border regime studies).  Conference on Migration and Violence, 16 May – 19 May 2019 in Leipzig, Germany; Madita Erdmann
  • GENDER-Net Team Meeting: Conceptual Frameworks and Methodology, 8 May- 9 May 2019 in Paris, France; Sieglinde Rosenberger, Madita Erdmann