Mandatory reporting of sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian settings: A qualitative analysis of international guidelines for humanitarian practitioners and scoping review of existing evidence

Zhang, W. et al.
Publication language
Date published
01 Sep 2023
Global Journal of Medicine and Public Health
Research, reports and studies
Conflict, violence & peace, Gender, humanitarian action


Mandatory reporting requirements create an ethical and legal dilemma for humanitarian practitioners working with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), as they are required to report known instances of SGBV to law enforcement, sometimes without the consent of victims or as a precondition to administering care. However, there remains a paucity of research on this topic in the context of humanitarian settings to guide practitioners on how to navigate mandatory reporting requirements from a survivor-centered approach. This study seeks to contribute to the existing knowledge and debate on mandatory reporting for SGBV in humanitarian settings by reviewing the current literature and international GBV guidelines for humanitarian practitioners.


We conducted an abductive thematic analysis of key international GBV guidelines for humanitarian workers to explore the practices and guidance developed around mandatory reporting. GBV guidelines were identified by a search on agencies’ websites under consultations with experts in the field of sexual and reproductive health. In parallel, we conducted a scoping review of five academic databases with no earliest inclusion date, and a final inclusion date of 31 March 2023 to identify the scope and extent of research on SGBV mandatory reporting in humanitarian settings.


We identified thirty-one relevant international GBV guideline documents which provide guidance for humanitarian practitioners on implementing mandatory reporting requirements. The availability and depth of information regarding mandatory reporting varies in the international guidelines. Three themes, including “GBV guiding principles”, “consideration for the impact of mandatory reporting and the reporting obligations” and “guidance for humanitarian providers on how to implement mandatory reporting requirements” emerged from the GBV guideline content analysis. As part of the scoping review, 1474 records were reviewed, with only 5 publications meeting our eligibility criteria. The 5 selected publications contained only limited information about mandatory reporting.


Existing guidelines would benefit from incorporating more systematic and detailed guidance on how to navigate mandatory reporting requirements while upholding survivor-centered responses. There remains little evidence on the implementation or effectiveness of mandatory reporting in humanitarian settings, and of the implementation of guidance pertaining to mandatory reporting included in international GBV guidelines. Further research is necessary to clarify its implications and support evidence-based guidance for humanitarian personnel.