Por Soraya Rodríguez Ramos

HomePostsSexual violence against women: weapon of war in Ukraine

Sexual violence against women: weapon of war in Ukraine

  • The European Parliament adopts a resolution on the impact of the war against Ukraine on women and condemns the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.
  • Soraya Rodríguez Ramos (Renew Europe): “The EU has to defend that we are not witnessing collateral damages from the war, but rather war crimes.”

War has made again women’ bodies a battlefield. Hearing the testimonies of survivors, there is no doubt that rape, abuse and sexual violence are weapons of war used by the Russian criminal troops in Ukraine. “We will rape you until you feel no desire to give birth to new Ukrainians”. This is one of the phrases that the Ombudswoman, Lyudmyla Denisova, has noted as recurring in victims’ statements. Ukraine was to be no exception: the war has a specific and devastating impact on women and girls. 

The European Union cannot remain indifferent to this situation. The modification last May of the rules of the European Union Agency for Criminal and Judicial Cooperation (Eurojust) to allow collecting evidence of war crimes is good news. This will ensure for example that perpetrators of crimes committed in Ukraine do not go unpunished. The Agency will now be able to preserve, analyse and store evidence related to the most important international crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Coordination and exchange of evidence between the various competent authorities will be essential to ensure the effectiveness of the investigations carried out. This decision will enable us to take all measures in our power to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable for their crimes before the International Criminal Court or special war crimes tribunals.

War exacerbates sexual violence: trafficking for sexual exploitation of Ukrainian women

The impact of the war on women who have fled Ukraine is also undeniable. The displacement of more than 7 million people outside the country, the vast majority of whom are women and children, has created the perfect environment for the increase of victims of trafficking. The risk is such that there is an urgent need for a common commitment at European level against trafficking and the operationalisation of the Common Plan against Trafficking to support potential victims

Wars exacerbate pre-existing inequalities. The difficulties faced by Ukrainian women were there before the war. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 46.000 Ukrainian women were trafficked between 2019 and 2021, being the most common victims of human trafficking to the EU. It is our responsibility to contribute to alleviating the hell in which many refugee women find themselves in the EU. For example, we must prevent that they are forced to carry on with a pregnancy resulting from rape, which is used as a weapon of war in Ukraine. It is also urgent that all Member States make their health services’ portfolios available so that Ukrainian women have the option of a safe abortion in any country of the Union. It is their right. It is our obligation.

In trafficking, there is not only a vulnerable victim and a criminal organisation recruiting. There is also a third key player: the users of trafficked persons’ sexual services. It is appalling to see advertisements offering sexual services of Ukrainian women in many EU countries. It is not true that this is a free and legitimate practice: a 20-year-old girl, who has to flee because of the war, does not engage in prostitution voluntarily. Campaigns are therefore needed to raise awareness among users and to warn them that, if they are aware that they are dealing with a victim of trafficking, they would be cooperating in a crime of human trafficking and exploitation.

Soraya Rodríguez called for the facilitation of abortion for Ukrainians raped in the war and awareness-raising campaigns aimed at European users, in view of the proliferation of advertising of sexual services of Ukrainian women. 

FEMM Committee, 21/04/2022.

The European Parliament’s position on the impact of the war against Ukraine on women

As in many other conflicts, it is essential to have a gender perspective in this matter. On 5 May, we approved in the European Parliament by a large majority a resolution on the impact of the war against Ukraine on women, which I led from Renew Europe. In the text, we call for the correct and full implementation of the Temporary Protection Directive in all 27 Member States, to ensure that women refugees fleeing the war fully benefit from the rights enshrined in it. 
In addition, we condemn the use of sexual and gender-based violence,  both within Ukraine, in transit centres, and in all other EU territories. We must defend in the EU that sexual violence cases are not collateral damage from the Putin war, but rather war crimes.

Video highlights

Statement by Soraya Rodríguez (Renew Europe) at the plenary session of the European Parliament, 5 May 2022: “The EU has to defend that we are not facing collateral damage from war, but war crimes”.

Photo credit: Ukrainian children are fleeing Russian aggression. Przemyśl, Polonia. 27/02/2022. Mirek Pruchnicki (CC-BY)

Soraya Rodríguez Ramos

Mujeres al frente es un espacio de reflexión dirigido por la política y abogada española Soraya Rodríguez Ramos. Desde 2019, es diputada del Parlamento Europeo en la delegación del partido Ciudadanos. Desde su escaño de eurodiputada, desarrolla un intenso trabajo como portavoz en Igualdad de Género y Derechos de la Mujer del grupo Renew Europe, así como miembro del Comité de Derechos Humanos y de la Comisión de Medio Ambiente por su compromiso con el cuidado del planeta y la justicia climática.