Letter to Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli on access to sexual and reproductive health and rights of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine

Dear Commissioner Dalli,

I am contacting you with regard to sexual and reproductive health and rights of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, seeking protection in European Member states and neighbouring countries.

The ETUC Women’s Committee notes with concern the growing evidence of sexual violence, including rape, used as a war weapon in Ukraine. In light of the horrifying stories that reach us from Ukraine, the accessibility of sexual and reproductive health care in hosting countries towards women and girls in all their diversity fleeing the war in Ukraine deserves our urgent attention.

It is nothing less than a prolongation of human rights violations on European ground if women who are victims of war crimes in Ukraine are denied access to safe and respectful terminations of pregnancies, including other reproductive health care services, such as emergency contraception.

The specific vulnerability of women refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine puts the spotlight on longstanding deficits and ongoing deterioration of women and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights in EU Member states, of which the effective ban of abortions in Poland is one of the most drastic examples. The regression of women and girls’ fundamental rights to reproductive and sexual health care, including abortions, in several EU member states, such as Poland, Hungary, Romania or Slovakia, must be stopped and repealed as a matter of urgency.

The ETUC Women’s Committee calls on you as Commissioner for Equality to ensure that every woman and child, in all their diversity, fleeing the war in Ukraine can be sure of being protected and cared for when fleeing the war and being hosted in an EU Member state or neighbouring country. Being denied the possibility of a termination of pregnancy, especially resulting of rape, is an unacceptable, intolerable cruelty.

The ETUC Women’s Committee calls on you to

  • Ensure that women and girls’ fundamental rights to reproductive and sexual health care services, including access to free and safe abortions, abortion care, contraception, emergency contraception and maternal care are safeguarded in all European member states at all times
  • Ensure that any legal restrictions on sexual and reproductive health and rights, specifically restrictions to the right to abortion, are removed in all EU member states
  • Establish financial, political and logistical support for organizations and frontline actors providing sexual and reproductive health services, specifically in EU Member states that have put in place legal barriers to sexual and reproductive health care
  • Put in place adequate resources to support hosting countries, including non-EU Member states to cater for the needs of women and child refugees in all their diversity, including LGBTQI+ persons, e.g. to be provided with proper accommodation, access to health care, access to child care, access to specialized services, including gender-responsive psycho-social care • Adopt a gender-sensitive perspective in any forms of crisis response to the war in Ukraine
  • Finalize the ratification of the EU to the Istanbul Convention and ensure implementation and monitoring at all levels

Whereas the ETUC has already expressed its solidarity to the women trade unionist of Ukraine, we remain at your disposal for any support you need in this matter of great urgency.

I attach the ETUC Women’s Committee statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Best regards,

Esther Lynch

Deputy General Secretary 

27.04.2022
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