Statement of Solidarity with Women, Girls, and Gender Minorities with Disabilities in Ukraine
Thursday 24 February 2022
Women Enabled International (WEI) extends our solidarity to the people of Ukraine in the face of the conflict that is rapidly developing in the face of Russian aggression. WEI expresses particular concern for the situation for women, girls, and gender minorities with disabilities in Ukraine, who will be particularly at risk of human rights violations during the conflict.
There are at least 2.7 million persons with disabilities in Ukraine, approximately half of whom are women and girls. War and conflict have a disproportionate impact on the rights and well-being of women, girls, and gender minorities with disabilities.
- They face heightened risks of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict, due to a range of factors. For instance, they may lose access to assistive devices, support people, and other protective networks. They may also lack accessible information that would facilitate their escape from conflict, placing them at greater risk of violence by soldiers and others.
- If they are able to escape, the conflict will restrict access to food, shelter, and other basic necessities – a harm that is exacerbated for women, girls, and gender minorities with disabilities who are already more likely to experience poverty outside of conflict.
- Inaccessible relief facilities and humanitarian assistance can increase reliance on others to meet basic needs, further exposing them to higher risk of violence and exploitation.
- They also may lose access to needed sexual and reproductive health services, vital particularly for pregnant persons and those subjected to sexual and gender-based violence, and to important sexual and reproductive health goods, such as sanitary pads or contraception.
States have a particular obligation to ensure rights for and protection of women, girls, and gender minorities with disabilities during armed conflict. This includes, according to the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, “developing specific protections for [them] during the conduct of hostilities at the strategic, tactical and operational levels,” and, as the U.N. Security Council has found, ensuring sustainable, timely, appropriate, inclusive and accessible humanitarian assistance. It further includes an obligation to ensure that they are free from violence, have access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services, and have redress for any human rights violations committed against them.
With these obligations in mind, we call on actors in Ukraine to:
- Ensure that women, girls, and gender minorities with disabilities have access to sexual and reproductive goods, such as sanitary pads and contraceptive pills, and essential sexual and reproductive health care, such as maternal healthcare and GBV services.
- Prevent and redress sexual and gender-based violence against women, girls, and gender minorities with disabilities, including by evacuating and ensuring that they can flee conflict-affected areas, ensuring that humanitarian assistance is directly accessible to them and is disability- and gender-responsive, and ensuring accessible justice mechanisms for violence during the conflict.
- Ensure that women, girls, and gender minorities with disabilities have access to information about humanitarian assistance and about response to GBV and SRH during the conflict, provided in accessible formats such as sign language, braille, Easy Read and plain language.
- Ensure that women, girls, and gender minorities with disabilities are provided direct access to food, water, medical supplies, healthcare, evacuation assistance, accessible transportation, safe and accessible shelters, and other measures to reduce the impact of the conflict on their lives.
Further Resources on Gender, Disability, and Armed Conflict:
- Women Enabled International, Rights Violations in Conflict and Humanitarian Emergencies Factsheet (2020).
- Inter-Agency Standing Committee, Guidelines: Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action (2019).
Statements from Colleague Organizations:
- European Disability Forum, https://www.edf-feph.org/protection-and-safety-of-persons-with-disabilities-in-ukraine/
- Humanity in Action – Poland, https://twitter.com/HIApl/status/1496437787305861125?s=20&t=Pcg0WUfAEWZZGcFAFdPnMw
- Women’s Refugee Commission, https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/press-releases/womens-refugee-commission-warns-of-loss-of-life-and-human-suffering-due-to-russian-aggression-in-ukraine/