Immigrating to France does not necessarily mean the end of hardship for women. A survey published in The Lancet on Sunday 17 September has made a lot of noise in recent days, especially because it reveals that women asylum seekers are particularly exposed to sexual violence after their arrival in France. The researchers even calculated that they are 18 times more likely to be raped than French women in general. The results are alarming, but to be taken with restraint.
273 women interviewed
From 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022, general practitioners from the Faculty of Medicine of Aix-Marseille conducted a study on sexual violence against women asylum seekers. The doctors only sought to interview women who had arrived on French territory for more than a year but less than two years and were registered in the south of the France by the Immigration Office.
Out of 1299 women identified as eligible for participation, 273 were interviewed, i.e. 21% of them. Indeed, 897 were unreachable, 118 refused to participate and 11 missed the appointment. Finally, more than half of the women interviewed were between 26 and 35 years old, came from West Africa (the others, the Middle East, Asia or Europe), were in a relationship with a partner present in France and received financial assistance from the State or shelter assistance.
The 273 women volunteers responded to a questionnaire on sexual violence and interviewed doctors and "professional interpreters with experience in interviewing asylum applications". According to the results, 84 of them were victims of sexual violence during their last year of life in France, more than a quarter. 17 were raped, or 6.2%, including 15 more than once.
Previous sexual violence
The study identifies a particular vulnerability among those who had already suffered sexual violence before their arrival in France (rape, assault, female genital mutilation, etc.). In the sample, 202 women had suffered this violence before their arrival in France, "of whom 139 had been raped".
According to the study, "the overexposure to sexual violence manifested by West African women after their migration to France is consistent with the networks of traffickers that affect Nigerian populations identified by OFPRA [French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons, editor's note].»
Those who had no partner in the host country or no housing were also vulnerable.
Over or under estimation
But the investigation has some limitations. The investigators admit at the end of their study that "the main limitation is the number of non-responding women." "It is possible that the sexual violence in our study was overestimated by the greater participation of victims, who may have felt more concerned."
But some women did not wish to participate and "said they did not want to discuss their history of violence. Some could not even be reached directly because their partners objected to the team interacting directly with them." On the contrary, this situation could contribute to an underestimation of sexual violence among women asylum seekers.