Rape as a Weapon of War in Ukraine

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:32 am on 31st March 2022.

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Photo of Anthony Mangnall Anthony Mangnall Conservative, Totnes 10:32 am, 31st March 2022

It is a tragic reality that, in conflicts and crises around the world, rape and sexual violence have become weapons of war. They are the tools of the vicious and the violent, and the consequences have such long and far-reaching impacts on the individuals, their families and their communities. It is happening in Tigray, in Myanmar, in Iraq, and now it is happening in Ukraine. Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, there have been widespread reports of Russian troops resorting to rape and sexual violence against women and girls.

Just two weeks ago, this House and the Prime Minister welcomed four Ukrainian Members of Parliament to Westminster and to No. 10. They highlighted the fact that Putin

“has changed his strategy to target the most vulnerable groups of women and children”.

They went on to report that women were being raped and executed, and those who were not executed were killing themselves.

I chair the all-party parliamentary group on the preventing sexual violence in conflict initiative as well as the Conservative Friends of International Development. The UK’s action and leadership on this subject matters and has proven to be world leading. However, we must have more steps taken now in relation to Ukraine.

Yesterday, Sarah Champion raised this issue in the Liaison Committee. She asked the Prime Minister whether we had deployed our PSVI team to support survivors and victims of sexual violence into Ukraine or the surrounding areas. The Prime Minister said that we had. Can the Minister please confirm that, and provide details to the House of how many we have supplied to the area and whether we will provide more?

It is particularly welcome to see the appointment of Sir Howard Morrison QC as the independent adviser to the Ukrainian prosecutor. Can the Minister confirm that all crimes of sexual violence will be documented and prosecuted, and where this will take place?

Many of us who support the preventing sexual violence in conflict initiative have been calling for a new independent international body to investigate sexual violence in conflict wherever it takes place, as a body that will support survivors, document crimes and, working with local courts, prosecute perpetrators. Does the Minister accept that that is needed now—not in six months, not in 12 months, but now—with our global leadership and our determination?

Finally, the PSVI and gender-based violence need a long-term strategy, with full and transparent funding formulas. Ukraine is unfortunately, as I have said, on a long list of countries where rape and gender-based violence is perpetrated without fear of justice. We must end the culture of impunity, and the Government must act now on behalf of the people of Ukraine.