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04. October 2016

Berlin: medica mondiale calls for protection and support for women’s rights defenders

On September 27, 2016, Sabiha Husic, Director of Medica Zenica, Humaira Rasuli, Director of Medica Afghanistan, and Jeannette Böhme, Advocacy and Human Rights Officer at medica mondiale, travelled to Berlin together to raise awareness of the consequences of sexualised wartime violence. In conversations with the Human Rights Commissioner, Bärbel Kofler, the Foreign Office and Members of Parliament, they called for the German government to provide long-term support for survivors of sexualised wartime violence and consequential protection of women’s rights defenders.

Support for survivors has to be secured for the long term

More than 20 years after the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, women there are still suffering significantly from the consequences of wartime rape – this was Sabiha Husic’s message to the German parliament. Many have physical and psychological health problems. They experience ostracism and stigmatisation from Bosnian society. Today, it is still mainly women's rights organisations who are providing them with expert advice and support. The Director of Medica Zenica appealed for the commitment of these organisations to be secured in the long term. “By funding integrated stress- and trauma-sensitive offers of support and protection structures, the German government could make an important contribution.” The delegation had been invited to a discussion with Members of Parliament and parliamentary staff by Christoph Strässer, a member of the Subcommittee on Civilian Crisis Prevention and the Development Committee. As he said: “Courageous women working for change need this type of support more than ever.”

Women’s rights defenders have to be given political and diplomatic protection

In nearly all countries where medica mondiale supports projects, civil society is experiencing ever more limitations in its ability to take action, due to the policies of governmental and non-governmental actors. Restrictive legislation, such as curtailing the freedom of expression, or hidden repression, in the form of complicated procedures for registering a non-governmental organisation, for example, are deliberately introduced by governments in order to make the work of civil society actors more difficult or even impossible. Another worrying development can also be observed: there is a steady increase in violence against women’s rights defenders. Afghanistan is one country where these courageous people are subject to increasing pressure, hostilities, threats or even murder. “It is absolutely essential to guarantee protection for women’s rights defenders,” insisted Humaira Rasuli in a discussion with the Federal Government’s Human Rights Commissioner, Bärbel Kofler. The Director of Medica Afghanistan continued by saying the German government needs to take a decisive and unequivocal stance in consultations and negotiations with the Afghan government, insisting on respect for women’s rights and the protection of those calling for this. Funding should also be provided to help establish emergency structures in Afghanistan which could ensure rapid, unbureaucratic help when women’s rights defenders are particularly at risk.

German government has to pass effective Action Plan

The German government intends to adopt a new Action Plan for “Women, Peace and Security” by the end of this year. This is designed to contribute to more strongly anchoring the protection of women and children from sexualised and gender-based violence within the country’s foreign, development and security policies. For example, the Federal Government has to work worldwide towards reforms which ensure that rape and other forms of gender-based violence are recognised as criminal offences. Jeannette Böhme, the Advocacy and Human Rights Officer at medica mondiale, made a clear demand when talking to representatives of the German Foreign Office: “If the Action Plan is to have any impact in practice, the German government has to commit itself to enacting tangible measures and dedicating sufficient financial and human resources to its implementation.”


Related topics

Policy Briefing: Approaches to providing support for survivors of sexualised violence