War in Ukraine: protecting women refugees from violence and sexual exploitation

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.


Parliament calls on the EU to protect women fleeing Ukraine from violence and trafficking, and to grant them access to essential health services.

In a resolution adopted on Thursday by 462 votes in favour, 19 against and 89 abstentions, MEPs strongly condemn the use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war. They express their deep concern about the growing number of reports of human trafficking, sexual violence, exploitation, rape and abuse faced by women and children fleeing Ukraine.

MEPs highlight in particular that the specific needs of women and girls should be addressed in refugee reception centres and that complaint mechanisms should be made immediately available to them in languages and formats accessible to all. Member states and the EU should swiftly identify and prosecute the trafficking networks profiting from sexual exploitation of women refugees. Parliament also urges EU countries to provide safe and coordinated transport between member states.

Guaranteeing access to essential SRHR services

MEPs call on the EU and all host and transit countries to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), particularly emergency contraception and abortion care, including for victims of rape, as well as obstetric care. For those women who are still in Ukraine, Parliament urges the EU to use all the measures and funds at its disposal to respond to their SRHR needs, and to send dignity kits, including contraceptives and sexual reproductive health kits, in humanitarian packages and convoys to Ukraine and to host countries.

To facilitate the integration of women refugees in host countries, MEPs want to grant them access to the labour market as soon as possible and call for special programmes and language courses as well as access to childcare.

Quote

Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee Chair Robert Biedroń (S&D, PL) said: “Mass rapes, sexual and gender-based violence, torture and genocide are being used as a weapon of war. We will not rest until the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice, but – even when they are – deeply wounded lives might never recover from such trauma. This is why it is unacceptable that women seeking refuge in the EU are being deprived of fundamental sexual reproductive health services. Member states must step up their efforts and ensure that these women receive all the support they require.”

Background

According to the UNHCR, more than 5.5 million refugees – 90% of whom are women and children – have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion started on 24 February. A further 7.1 million people are internally displaced within Ukraine, including women and children in need of medical care.

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