Ukraine war: PES Women call for urgent action against trafficking and sexual violence

08/04/2022

PES Women Executive meeting by videoconference

PES Women Executive meeting by videoconference

Women and children stuck in Ukraine, as well as those fleeing the conflict, are facing multiple crises, PES Women Executive members warned today. Action to prevent gender-based violence, displacement, trafficking, and famine is urgently needed.

PES Women President Zita Gurmai said:

“What is happening in Ukraine is an atrocity. We are receiving many reports of women being displaced, raped and murdered. For those fleeing the conflict, the risk of trafficking and exploitation is also very high. Even before Putin’s invasion, Ukraine was a hotspot for trafficking into the EU. Urgent action is needed to prevent these crimes, support victims, and bring those responsible to justice.

“How many lives will Putin sacrifice in this senseless war? Civilians should never be targets. Neither should journalists, or NGOs and organisations providing aid.”

Yulyia Levochkina, member of the Ukrainian Parliament, and Tetiana Pulia, from the Ukrainian Women’s Lobby, briefed today’s meeting about the situation on the ground.

Over 90% of people fleeing Ukraine are women, children, and unaccompanied minors. PES Women call for more protection and services for them. The Temporary Protection Directive, the Child Protection Package and an EU anti-trafficking plan must be swiftly implemented, with member states providing the necessary information and prevention tools. Support is urgently needed as many refugees have few personal ties in the EU and no financial resources. For some, this is a second displacement after having already fled conflicts in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

In Ukraine, women continue to face a multitude of dangers. They are targeted when escaping the conflict, and whilst sheltering in maternity hospitals and bomb shelters. Sexual and physical violence, isolation and lack of nutrition and healthcare remain threats. Damage to health infrastructure particularly affects sexual and reproductive health and rights and risks driving up unwanted pregnancies as well as maternal and infant mortality. For the estimated 80,000 pregnant women who will be giving birth in the next three months, including estimated 500 surrogate mothers, the situation is particularly perilous.

PES Women call on EU member states to address these specific issues and step-up action to uphold women’s rights. An inter-institutional task force would help to coordinate and monitor the latest events. Women need to be represented at these negotiation tables. They must support NGOs - who continue to cover the gaps in government aid - and improve cooperation at all governmental levels and internationally, particularly to address violence and human trafficking.

The social democratic family continues to put the spotlight on these issues. The PES Women Executive commended Commissioner Ylva Johansson for not only underlining the risks for women, but also for providing practical solutions. Her 10-point plan includes an EU-wide refugee registration system, guidelines for unaccompanied minors, and measures for delivering information to refugees and volunteers.

PES Women reiterates its belief in the diplomatic path to peace, with women’s voices being recognised and included. International law must be upheld at all stages and member states must continue working together in solidarity. This solidarity must extend to all in society and the EU must address the social consequences of the conflict - such as rising consumer and energy - which disproportionately affect women.