28th Sep 2022

Ukraine women 'biggest victims of Putin's war,' MEPs warn

  • Of the more than five million refugees who have already fled Ukraine, 90 percent of them are women and children (Photo: Matthias Berg)
Listen to article

MEPs called on Thursday (5 May) on all EU member states to guarantee Ukrainian women access to emergency contraception and abortion — after growing reports of rape and sexual violence being used as "a weapon of war" by Russian soldiers.

They also said EU funds should be used to send "dignity kits" with contraceptives and sexual reproductive health kits to Ukraine and other to host countries.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Women are "the biggest victims of Putin's war" and "the easiest target for a Russian soldier's cruelty," liberal MEP Dita Charanzová said during a plenary debate in Strasbourg.

Of the more than five million refugees who have already fled Ukraine, 90 percent of them are women and children.

But the risk for women of becoming victims of violence remains when they enter the EU.

Trafficking was already an issue in Ukraine before the Russian invasion. But the war has raised fears over women seeking refuge in the EU ending up in the hands of criminal gangs.

MEPs called on EU countries to coordinate to ensure safe transport for women travelling between member states.

Socialist MEP Robert Biedroń, who chairs the European Parliament's committee on women's rights, said member states should improve the registration of all refugees to protect women from sexual exploitation.

Likewise, he said that it is "unacceptable" that women seeking refuge in his country, Poland, were forced to continue pregnancies that are the result of "brutal rapes".

"As Europeans, it is our responsibility to guarantee access to health and other rights to Ukrainian women," said centre-right Polish MEP Ewa Kopacz.

Ukrainian victims of gender-based violence and rape have been struggling to get abortion care in Poland — where access to abortion under the country's healthcare system is practically impossible.

But Poland has become the single-biggest destination for refugees fleeing the war, hosting nearly 2.6 million Ukrainians.

Abortion Without Borders, an NGO that helps women from Poland access abortion, said they have received more than 158 requests from Ukrainian women asking for information on how to terminate their pregnancy in Poland.

Russian shame

"Russia is not only waging war against Ukraine, Russia is also waging war against women," EU commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson said.

"They invade your country, they invade your home, they invade your body," she added, arguing that women that suffered from rape and sexual assault need to have access to safe abortion, sexual reproductive rights and psychological support.

Increasing reports of Russian soldiers raping Ukrainian women, Johansson, should be investigated and the perpetrators of these "war crimes" must be brought to justice.

"Russia should never ever be able to wash away the shame," she warned.

The Ukrainian ombudsman office received 400 complaints of rape committed by Russian soldiers in the first two weeks of April, according to the Kyiv Independent.

But the country's authorities continue investigating and gathering investigations over the cases in which Russian soldiers have used rape as a weapon of war — with the support of the European Union.

The EU has set up a joint investigation team with Ukraine to collect evidence and investigate war crimes — in cooperation with the International Criminal Court in The Hague which in early March decided to open an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine.


Raped in front of husband - the story of one refugee

I dread evenings. This is when all bad things happen. When your house is raided by militants, when you are physically or sexually assaulted, when your daughter's very life is threatened.

EU will support investigation into war crimes in Ukraine

The European Commission has pledged to support investigations into potential war crimes in Ukraine — following reports of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in Bucha, Irpin, and other Ukrainian cities.


Why Ukraine needs to enforce Istanbul Convention — now

TV viewers have become familiar with images of bodies in the streets of Ukraine, buildings destroyed, and people crowding onto trains to flee. What has gone mostly unreported is the significant increase in domestic violence, and its grave implications.

News in Brief

  1. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap
  2. EU: Nord Stream explosions 'result of a deliberate act'
  3. EU okays €21bn Covid-recovery funding for Italy amid concern
  4. Greece pitches new EU fund to tackle energy prices
  5. Hungary says sanctions 'harming Europe more than Russia'
  6. France aims to start building new nuclear reactors by 2027
  7. Polish PM thinks it's 'clear' Nord Stream leaks are act of sabotage
  8. Former Jobbik MEP sentenced to prison for Russia spying

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Meloni's navy-blockade plan to stop Libya migrants 'unlikely'
  2. Underwater explosions were detected near Nord Stream leaks
  3. EU countries stall new pesticide rules, blame Ukraine war
  4. The UN's Uyghur report must push EU into China sanctions
  5. Russian diamonds ban 'would cost 10,000 jobs', Antwerp claims
  6. EU should admonish less, and listen more, to the Global South
  7. Foul play suspicions in Nord Stream leaks
  8. 'Collective guilt' — the dilemma of penalising Russia's opposition

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us