EU Parliament votes to protect women refugees

8th March 2016
UNFPA swop report

IPPF EN welcomes the adoption of a report on the situation of women refugees and asylum seekers in the EU.

The report authored by Mary Honeyball MEP, calls for the protection of the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of women refugees in the EU. It urges the European Commission and member states to guarantee full access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including access to safe abortion. The text was adopted by 388 votes (150 against, 159 abstentions).

Women and children are disproportionately affected by conflict, comprising the 60% of refugees coming into the EU, according to the UNHCR. The report calls for comprehensive EU-wide guidelines to ensure all aspects of asylum policy are gender sensitive and for urgent action to be taken to improve the safety of women and children refugees.

The report also addresses the issue of trafficking, smuggling and sexual violence. Women refugees are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence in crises situations, and little-to-no counselling is offered. Adolescent girls are especially susceptible to sexual exploitation, violence, and many reports cite that women are being forced into transactional sex in exchange for travel documents.

More than 1 in 3 maternity-related deaths worldwide take place in crisis settings, including refugee camps. Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health for women undertaking these arduous journeys is almost non-existent, and services provided at reception centres are in no means sufficient to address the needs of refugee women. Condoms or any other form of contraception are rarely available at the transit camps, which further perpetuates the situation.

IPPF EN Regional Director, Caroline Hickson was pleased with the decision but said the EU cannot continue to neglect the reproductive needs of refugee women: “Sexual and Reproductive Health is a basic human right and protecting women against sexual violence is imperative. The fact that only twelve European Union Member States have ratified The Istanbul Convention guaranteeing the protection of women means that more needs to be done to uphold this.

“The EU must protect the rights of women and children through the introduction of vital SRH services to enable the prevention of sexual violence, reduction in STI/HIV transmission, and prevention of maternal and infant mortality.”

To read the full report click here: on the situation of women refugees and asylum seekers in the EU

Photo: Nake Batev/UNFPA