The war in Ukraine is putting women and girls at increased risk of sexual violence, both in the country and when fleeing to find temporary shelter in other countries, according to the United Nations.
The current situation in Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia on 24 February, and the displacement of millions of Ukrainians as a result, puts all people in Ukraine at risk, but the threat is stronger for women and girls, according to Dagmar Schumacher, Director of the UN Women Brussels Office on the occasion of International Women's Day.
"We are very concerned. We want this war to stop. The current situation jeopardises the safety of all people in Ukraine, but it also puts women and girls at increased risk of sexual violence, especially those who are refugees or otherwise displaced from their homes," she told The Brussels Times.
She added that the progress made towards a more gender-equal world is being obstructed by "multiple, interlocking and compounding crises," such as the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. "Whatever the crisis, from conflict to climate, women and girls are affected first and worst."
A panel of UN human rights experts already highlighted the increased risk for women. "History has repeatedly shown that the outbreak of conflict and war increases the exposure of women and girls to war crimes, especially all forms of gender-based violence, arbitrary killings, rape and trafficking,” the experts said.
The rapidly mounting crisis in Ukraine is affecting women and girls differently.Read the gendered impacts of the ongoing military attack and how UN Women will respond to the needs of women and girls in Ukraine, as explained by our Regional Director @elyassir_alia. — UN Women Europe & CIS (@unwomeneca) March 4, 2022
Alleged rape by soldiersOne example of this increased risk is the alleged rape of Ukrainian women by Russian soldiers which Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, referred to when discussing the ongoing conflict in the country and the reports of war crimes and crimes against humanity during an online event organised by the Chatham House think-tank. During his statement, he spoke of “numerous cases” of sexual violence in the week since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an all-out offensive against the country, however, no evidence was given for this claim.
- Thousands of Ukrainians reach Belgium, reception centres overwhelmed
- Municipalities can create temporary shelter for Ukrainian refugees without permit