IOM Uses International Case Studies to Facilitate Discussion on Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

As Ukraine is taking steps to adopt legislative measures for enhancements to the evolving rehabilitation and reparations mechanisms for conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) survivors, IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has organized a symposium to discuss international best practices in the field. The event, supported by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, provided a platform for the exchange of knowledge and lessons learned from Iraq and Bosnia and Herzegovina with a focus on the meaningful engagement of survivors, the benefits of working through national and international avenues, and the importance of multi-sector, multi-agency, multi-stakeholder approaches in prevention and response.

“Currently, there is no provision for CRSV as a separate crime in Ukrainian legislation, which creates obstacles in the prosecution of perpetrators and in victim assistance. Implementing international best practices is extremely important to change this situation,” said Kateryna Pavlichenko, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.

As explained by Halyna Zhukovska, Senior Associate of the Apparatus of Government Commissioner for Gender Equality Policy, CRSV survivors in Ukraine have been assisted by international and non-government organizations. “At the same time, there is a vibrant state-led system for the provision of assistance to the survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, which can be utilized for the benefit of CRSV survivors once the legislative provisions are in place,” said Halyna Zhukovska. She added that according to international standards, survivors of CRSV have a right to reparations, and fulfilment of this provision in Ukraine will require more steps and efforts.

“Ukraine recognizes that CRSV has occurred and it should be applauded that important steps are taken from the onset of the issue,” said Elizabeth Warn, Deputy Chief of Mission at IOM Ukraine. “The UN Migration Agency stands ready to support Ukraine in the next incremental steps toward prevention, multidimensional assistance to survivors, legislative and judicial processes, with the ultimate goal of sustainable peace and reconciliation.”

According to Elizabeth Warn, one of the main concerns related to CRSV that needs greater attention is stigma: “Stigma prevents us from digging into the more challenging issues, such as survivors who are men or veterans. There are victims of regular gender-based violence from their families, but they may also be survivors of CRSV who are affected by more than gender-based violence but also war crimes. We need to see CRSV for what it is: a human rights violation that can affect people from all walks of life.”

Renee Lariviere, Regional Refugee Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, highlighted that without appropriate response, the conflict never ends for survivors of CRSV. “They need to receive specific survivor-based assistance, which can include legal, medical, economic or psychosocial support. And of course, the discussions are needed for the society to acknowledge that CRSV happens and to create an environment that allows a fully comprehensive response”.

IOM has worked in the area of reparations and addressing human rights violations for decades, from Colombia to Iraq, Sierra Leone to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Somalia to Chile, through frameworks for Holocaust survivors and in tandem with International Criminal Tribunals. In doing so, IOM has focused on a set of core programming principles: (1) alignment with international standards, (2) a participatory approach, (3) feasibility, efficiency and effectiveness, and (4) comprehensive and multifaceted work across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus.

Read the symposium report here

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