June 19, 2022 — On the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, the Center for Reproductive Rights condemns the continued use of sexual violence as a tactic of war in many contexts around the world. The Center also calls for immediate action by global decision-makers to ensure that all those affected by conflict-related sexual violence have access to the full range of essential health care and support services they need.
This violence often primarily targets women and girls, giving rise to grave violations of their human rights. As the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has recognized in its General Recommendation No. 30, women and girls are at a greater risk of unplanned pregnancy, severe sexual and reproductive injuries, and sexually transmitted infection, including HIV, as a result of conflict-related sexual violence. Certain groups of people face increased risks of sexual violence in conflict, including for example refugee and internally displaced women, human rights defenders, ethnic and religious minorities, people identifying as LGBTIQ, and women with disabilities.
As conflicts continue in multiple country contexts across the world, the devastating impact of conflict-related sexual violence persists. For example, in Ukraine, reports of conflict-related sexual violence are increasing and the risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking is multiplying. Survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in Ukraine are encountering significant barriers in access to essential sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion care and emergency contraception.
It is critical that all those who need sexual and reproductive health services, including survivors of sexual violence, be provided with timely access to the services and support they need. Survivors must also be guaranteed access to justice and effective remedies as well as psycho-social support. Failures to prevent, investigate and prosecute, and remedy and redress all forms of gender-based and sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings violate international human rights law, and gravely increases the risk of further violence .
Sexual and reproductive rights violations resulting from conflict-related sexual violence are often marginalized, silenced or forgotten in the conflict and post-conflict landscape and relevant accountability and transitional justice processes, despite their profound impact on women, girls, and marginalized populations. Civil society organizations and human rights defenders working on conflict-related gender-based and sexual violence and responding to the sexual and reproductive health needs of survivors often face hostility, threats, harassment and prosecution.
Action is now imperative to secure the total elimination of conflict-related sexual violence, and to guarantee reparations and accountability to survivors. Moreover, all states, intergovernmental institutions, and the broader international community must prioritize the human rights and sexual reproductive health care needs of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. They must ensure the protection of all human rights defenders and civil society organizations providing support to survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.