Rapes in Ukraine, “a military strategy” and a “deliberate tactic”

Rapes in Ukraine, “a military strategy” and a “debate tactic ;released


The rapes and sexual assaults attributed to Russian forces in Ukraine clearly constitute “a military strategy” and “a deliberate tactic to dehumanize the victims”, says UN Special Representative Pramila Patten, denouncing ” horrible cases and very brutal violence”. 

“All the indications are there”, answers Ms. Patten, questioned by AFP in Paris on rape as a weapon of war in Ukraine.

“When women and girls are kidnapped for days and raped, when you start raping little boys and men, when you see a series of cases of genital mutilation, when you hear the testimonies of women evoking russian soldiers equipped with viagra, this is clearly a military strategy. And when the victims talk about what was said during the rapes, it is clear that this is a deliberate tactic to dehumanize the victims,” says the Mauritian lawyer.

She notes that the first cases of sexual violence surfaced “three days after the start of the invasion of Ukraine”, on February 24.

Special Representative since 2017 of the Secretary General of the UN responsible for the issue of sexual violence committed in times of conflict, Ms. Patten was in Paris on Thursday to sign a partnership agreement with the NGO Libraries Without Borders to support victims of sexual violence in times of conflict.

The UN has verified “more than a hundred cases” of rape and sexual assault in Ukraine since the start of the war, but “it's not a question of numbers”, insists Ms. Patten. “It is very complicated to have reliable statistics during an active conflict, and the figures will never reflect reality, because sexual violence is a silent crime, the least reported and the least condemned”, she underlines , evoking fear of reprisals and stigmatization. “The reported cases are just the tip of the iceberg.”

The victims are primarily women and girls, but also boys and men, says the UN official, citing the report at the end of September of the independent international commission of inquiry (created by a resolution of the UN Security Council) . This report “confirmed crimes against humanity committed by Russian forces, and according to testimonies collected, the age of the victims of sexual violence varies from 4 years to 82 years. There are many cases of sexual violence against children, who are raped, tortured and kidnapped”, she underlines.

“My fight against sexual violence is really a fight against impunity”, repeats Pramila Patten, and “this is the reason why I went to Ukraine (last May, editor's note): to send a signal loudly to the victims, tell them that we are with them and ask them to break the silence. But also send a strong signal to rapists, the world is watching them, and it will not be without consequence to rape a woman or a girl, a man or a boy”.

Rape as weapon of war exists in all conflicts, from Bosnia to Guinea or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but according to Ms. Patten, the war in Ukraine marks an international “awakening of awareness”. “There is now a political will to fight impunity, and a consensus today on the fact that rape is used as a military tactic, a tactic of terror”, she analyzes.

“Is it because it's happening in the heart of Europe? The answer may lie there,” she adds, hoping that Ukraine will not eclipse other conflicts.

“I find this attention to the issue of violence very positive. conflicts, which usually have always been considered inevitable, as collateral damage, a cultural issue… But no, it's criminal,” she asserts.

A Another major concern for the UN representative is the risk of human trafficking.

“The women, girls and children who have fled Ukraine are very vulnerable, and for predators, it's not a tragedy what's happening in this country, it's an opportunity. Human trafficking is an invisible crime, but it is a major crisis,” she warns.

Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, more than 7.6 million Ukrainian refugees have been registered as refugees across Europe.