This webpage explores linkages between different crisis situations and gender-based violence. The information draws on EIGE’s research findings and gender statistics.

Keep an eye on our website for more updates throughout the year and check our projects page for upcoming studies related to gender-based violence in crises.

Gender-based violence in armed conflicts

Armed conflicts expose all civilians to the risk of experiencing conflict-related sexual violence. Women, men, girls and boys – all can become victims of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). They all need safety and protection.

Women and girls are primarily targeted by conflict-related sexual violence for multiple intersecting reasons.  These include pre-exisiting gender inequality and power imbalances, in addition to the conditions driven by armed conflict.

Moreover, CRSV is exacerbated by war strategies such as using rape as a tactical weapon of war.

Women and girls face an additional layer of negative outcomes concerning their reproductive health, namely forced pregnancy, pregnancy complications, induced abortions, gynaecological problems, and miscarriages. 

They are in urgent  need of sexual and reproductive health services that treat their rights, needs and wishes as an absolute priority.

Organisations such as WHO regularly issue publications, which define guiding principles for the provision of victim-centered care and list the essential elements and optimal timelines for the clinical management of rape.

Women fleeing war in Ukraine

The provision of sexual and reproductive healthcare services in the EU under the Temporary Protection Directive

Since the onset of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine on the 22nd of February 2022, human rights violations and violence have become the new harrowing reality of Ukraine, with growing evidence of mass atrocities and crimes of sexual violence and torture committed against civilians in the territories occupied by Russia’s armed forces. 

Millions of people fled Ukraine and sought refuge and protection across Europe, these are mostly women and children since martial law prevents men from leaving the country.

EIGEs report ”Women fleeing the war: Access to sexual and reproductive healthcare in the EU” assesses the availability of specialised services for victims of conflict-related sexual violence available in the European Union. 

Specifically, the report focuses on women and girls fleeing Ukraine and who have been protected under the Temporary Protection Directive (TPD), which was activated on the 4th of  March 2022, shortly after the Russian invasion on Ukraine.

Go to the report

The report aims to identify gaps in the provision of six sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services which are essential elements of the clinical management of (conflict-related) sexual violence. These six services reviewed include:

  • emergency contraception
  • sexually transmitted infection (STl) prevention and treatment
  • obstetric and gynaecological care
  • short- and long-term psychological counselling
  • and safe abortion and post-abortion care

The conclusions are drawn from an EU-wide questionnaire completed by 26 experts representing EU Member States and 12 follow-up interviews with representatives of relevant NGOs and public bodies, conducted in four of the Member States: Czechia, Germany, Poland and Slovakia.

Key recommendations

Below you will find key recommendations for EU institutions and Member States to improve the provision of specialised SRH services for victims of CRSV. These recommendations are based on gaps and challenges identified in “Women fleeing war in Ukraine: The provision of sexual and reproductive healthcare services in the EU under the Temporary Protection Directive” report.

Key recommendations for EU institutions

  • Implement the Istanbul Convention to ensure coherence across EU Member States in preventing and combating violence against women, and support Member States in ensuring specialised services for victims of all acts of violence covered by the convention.
  • Adopt the proposed directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence to enshrine minimum standards in EU law and Member States for ensuring, among other things, protection and support for victims and coordination between relevant services.
  • Adopt the revision of the Victims’ Rights Directive and ensure that victims of (conflict-related) sexual violence have easy access to targeted and integrated specialist support services, and a possibility to rely on free of charge psychological support for as long as necessary.
  • Clarify the scope of necessary healthcare for victims of (conflict-related) sexual violence in the Temporary Protection Directive, to guide Member States in ensuring service provision so that victims can exercise their sexual and reproductive [JM2] rights in each Member State on an equal basis.
  • Provide guidelines on the correct implementation of EU rules on temporary protection and victims’ rights, and support Member States in developing or improving existing needs assessments and referral mechanisms for victims of (conflict-related) sexual violence.
  • Disseminate existing international guidelines on how healthcare providers should respond to sexual violence, for example, through the development of an online training course reinforcing the need for ethical standards, and trauma-informed and gender-sensitive responses

Key recommendations for Member States

  • Ensure that women and girls under temporary protection are fully eligible to access specialised sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services.
  • Establish mechanisms addressing the vulnerability of unaccompanied minors to ensure that their age or lack of parental consent do not limit their access to SRH services.
  • Ensure that the provision of SRH services is affordable, provided in a timely manner and geographically accessible. Interpreters and female healthcare professionals should be available to assist women and girls, if requested.
  • Introduce national guidelines outlining the responsibilities of the police, healthcare and social care sectors in responding to victims of (conflict-related) sexual violence and improve referral mechanisms and needs assessments among these sectors.
  • Establish accessible rape crisis centres that provide specialised and immediate support to ensure the holistic, victim-centred, and gender and culturally sensitive provision of SRH services.

Explore the different dimensions of sexual and reproductive health services