House of Lords written question – answered on 14th February 2012.

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Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the global demand for counselling on and abortion of pregnancies resulting from rape in the context of armed conflict; and what is their position with regard to provision of such services in conflict zones where women and girls are raped in hostile armed conflict situations.

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Lords Spokesperson (Department for International Development)

The Department for International Development (DfID) directly supports the provision of non-discriminatory medical care to victims of rape in a range of countries, including those affected by conflict. The UK Government are committed to reducing maternal mortality in the developing world, and one of the leading causes of maternal death is unsafe abortion. DfID's position is that safe abortion reduces the recourse to unsafe abortion and thus saves lives. Women and adolescent girls must have the right to make their own decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and well-being. The World Health Organisation estimates that nearly 70,000 women die each year following an unsafe abortion and we are committed to bringing this number down, including in situations of armed conflict.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for example, DfID's contribution to the humanitarian pooled fund ensured that more than 6,000 survivors of sexual violence received support, including medical care, psycho-social support and economic reintegration assistance in 2010. DfID's health programme also provides medical support to survivors of sexual violence, treating 3,119 survivors in Maniema province in 2011. Meanwhile, our security sector accountability and police reform programme works to support the DRC Government, police and civil society to develop practical approaches towards improving prevention, reporting, investigation and victim support. In Sierra Leone, DfID funds family support units that support large numbers of women-including girls under 15-who have been victims of sexual assault.

The July 2011 DfID practice paper (available on the DfID website) clearly outlines the UK policy position on safe and unsafe abortion in developing countries.

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