War in Ukraine: protecting women and girls

Statement by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić on the occasion of International Women’s Day on 8 March

“As we continue to witness the horrors of war in Ukraine, I urge agreement on viable humanitarian corridors which are essential to allow the safe passage of thousands of displaced people fleeing death and destruction – for the most women and children.

As more than 1.7 million refugees have so far crossed the border into neighboring countries, I salute the sincere solidarity of our Member States, including Poland in particular, as they provide refugees with adequate care.

We are faced with the grim fact that war is always associated with distinct forms of violence against women and girls. As they attempt to escape conflict, women and girls become even more vulnerable, threatened by violence, sexual assault and rape. Women and girls fleeing conflict need specific support and protection.

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) supplements the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees and calls on its 35 States Parties to develop gender-sensitive reception procedures and support services for asylum seekers. The process of ratification of the Istanbul Convention must continue without delay.

The Council of Europe stands in full solidarity with the people of Ukraine in the face of continued bloodshed and suffering of innocent civilians, including women and children. I once again call on the Russian Federation to cease its aggression and return to the path of diplomacy.