Gender and Sensitive Matters

It is important to have both male and female interpreters in your program, as it is very likely that women or men who have suffered sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) may ask to talk only with someone of a specific gender, which may or may not be their own. Attempt to be able to provide such options.

Men and women may be culturally conditioned to react in different ways to trauma. As the community interpreters will be present in RSD preparation and interviews they are likely to come across reactions to trauma. Factor this into your training and ensure interpreters are comfortable around unexpected displays of emotion and know how to practice self-care themselves afterwards. All interpreters should be trained in using gender-sensitive language.

Sensitive subject matter in testimonies

Many refugee clients will be describing sensitive subject matter while giving their testimony to their legal advocate. In many cultures, to share certain details in front of members of the opposite gender is highly embarrassing and offensive. For this reason, your organization should do it’s absolutely best to find interpreters of both genders for each language and communicate clearly to your clients that they are within their rights to request an interpreter of a specific gender. Similarly, because the interpreters are also refugees themselves, they may feel uncomfortable with some elements of a client’s testimony relating to gender. Such elements may include gender-based violence (GBV), sexual content, reproductive details and other such subject matter. The interpreters should also be aware that they are free to request not to interpret certain interviews, or only to interpret for members of the same gender.

Gender considerations

Issues relating to gender often arise in the interpretation process. This section is meant to outline some of these issues and present risk mitigation strategies.

Sensitive subject matter in testimonies

Many refugee clients will be describing sensitive subject matter while giving their testimony to their legal advocate. In many cultures, to share certain details in front of members of the opposite gender is highly embarrassing and offensive. For this reason, your organization should do it’s absolutely best to find interpreters of both genders for each language and communicate clearly to your clients that they are within their rights to request an interpreter of a specific gender. Similarly, because the interpreters are also refugees themselves, they may feel uncomfortable with some elements of a client’s testimony relating to gender. Such elements may include gender-based violence, sexual content, reproductive details and other such subject matter. The interpreters should also be aware that they are free to request not to interpret certain interviews, or only to interpret for members of the same gender.

Interpreting for survivors of gender based violence

Certain elements of interpreters’ best practices are particularly vital when interpreting for women who have experienced gender based violence. The interpreter plays a vital role in ensuring that their experiences are communicated accurately throughout the process. It is essential that the client feel safe, comfortable, and able to trust the interpreter so that they will fully disclose all pertinent information. Due to the highly sensitive nature of the testimonies of Gender Based Violence, the following is recommended for clients having experienced GBV:

  • Ask the client if they are comfortable with an interpreter of their own gender or prefer another gender.
  • As your organization should offer regular trainings on the Code of Ethics and Professionalism, it would be best to assign an interpreter that has undergone at least a couple of these trainings and has experience and a proven record with your organization.
  • As taught in the professionalism trainings, it is vital that the interpreter make no indication- verbal or otherwise- of their beliefs, judgments, opinions etc. of any of the acts or experiences of the client described in their testimony of the GBV experienced.
  • An interpreter interpreting for a survivor of Gender Based Violence needs to be comfortable with using sexually explicit terms and also have sufficient language skills to interpret such terms. They should also have sufficient language skills to interpret relevant medical and legal terminology. Prior to the interview, the legal advocate on the case should brief the interpreter on these specifications.
  • The legal advocate must remain fully in control of the session. This means monitoring body language (including eye contact) of the client and the interpreter and the tone of the interpretation. The legal advocate must have a heightened awareness for whether or not either the client or the interpreter is uncomfortable (or struggling to interpret), in which case the session should be stopped immediately. This could indicate either that there are issues with accuracy or that secondary trauma is occurring.
  • The legal advocate should accompany the client when they leave, before helping the interpreter with their time sheet.
  • The legal advocate should then spend time with the interpreter, asking them about their well-being and encouraging them to employ the self-care methods that they have learned in the Self-Care Workshop.
  • Similarly the legal advocate should employ self-care methods.