V-Day and One Billion Rising stand in solidarity with the millions of Ukrainian women and girls who are being made more vulnerable to sexual violence in the face of Russia’s invasion and as reports grow of rape being used as weapon of war. The Ukrainian government is calling on the international community to investigate instances of rape and other forms of sexual abuse by Russian soldiers as both are considered war crimes that break international law.
As reported in The New York Times, “Russian forces and Moscow-backed armed groups have been accused of perpetrating sexual violence in other conflicts — most recently involving detainees in eastern Ukraine.” Ukrainian MP Maria Mezentseva has reported that instances of such crimes are being underreported, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has accused Russian soldiers of committing “numerous” rapes. “Last week, Ukrainian MPs charged that Russian forces were targeting women and girls specifically and that elderly women had been raped,” states The Washington Post.
The rape of a woman in the Brovary suburb of Kyiv, Ukraine has been widely reported. “I could have been silent, but when we got to the police, my husband’s sister made me speak up, and there was no going back. I understand that many people who have been hurt would stay silent because they are afraid. Lots of people don’t believe terrible things like this happen,” she was quoted in The Times.
Kateryna Busol, an associate with Chatham House and a Ukrainian lawyer, explains in a New York Times Article, “What we are hearing by word of mouth, from acquaintances of survivors in the country, is horrific,” she added. “I have had described to me incidents of gang rape, rape in front of children and sexual violence following the killing of family members.”
From our work across conflict zones from Bosnia to Afghanistan, Iraq to Congo – as well as years of research by advocates, we know that displacement, the tearing apart of families and the breakdown of care systems put women and girls at greater risk for sexual violence. According to UNFPA, over 3.8 million people left Ukraine for neighboring countries and other locations across Europe. The agency also estimates that 6.5 million people have been displaced within Ukraine.
Rape as a weapon of war leaves a devastating impact on women and their families. We call urgently upon governments for peace, to investigate these crimes of war and provide support for survivors – psychological, medical and financial.