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EU recognises the right to abortion for war rape victims

The co-chairs of the European Parliament working group for sexual and reproductive health and rights (EPWG), MEPs Sophie in 't Veld and Heidi Hautala, welcome the reviewed EU humanitarian aid policy that allows women and girls raped in armed conflict to have access to safe abortion.

Sophie in ‘t Veld and Heidi Hautala welcome the reviewed EU humanitarian aid policy on medical care for women and girls raped in armed conflict. In her answer to the letter co-signed by the EPWG chairs, high representative Mogherini stresses that war rape victims have the right, under international humanitarian law, to receive all the medical care required by their condition, including abortion, irrespective of local laws in war zones.

Until now the Commission has tacitly agreed on a total ban on abortion under the pressure of the United States that has prohibited the use of US aid funds for providing safe abortion services. With the new position, the Commission finally acknowledges the rights of female war rape victims.

Sophie in ‘t Veld has for years urged the Commission to safeguard the rights of women and girls raped in armed conflict. “Finally the EU speaks out on behalf of all those women and girls raped and impregnated by their rapists in war zones. At last the EU recognises that these women and girls should have access to safe abortion. These victims are often under-aged girls, sometimes even 12 years old, like the girls abducted by Boko Haram. It would be both physically and mentally devastating for these traumatised female victims to be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. These women finally get the help they are entitled to,” in ‘t Veld notes.

Heidi Hautala consider it important that EU complies with the international law of armed conflicts.“This policy means that the EU is finally applying international humanitarian law for war victims. We can now make sure that the victims of sexual violence get the necessary assistance under the EU humanitarian aid,” states Hautala.

The Commission policy is an important step, but the EPWG co-chairs stress the importance to mobilise support for the reviewed EU humanitarian aid policy, which now aligns the EU with the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary-General, and a large coalition of human rights and legal groups. The UN Security Council debate on women, peace and security, on 13 October in New York will be a first important platform to address the issue.

Letter to the Commission/High Representative Mogherini 29.5.2015
Answer by the Commission 11.9.2015