Sexual violence has been used systematically by both sides in the armed conflict in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine, and in the aftermath of Russia’s occupation of Crimea. Formed in February 2019, the Ukrainian survivors’ network has been working hard to achieve its aims to raise awareness of conflict-related sexual violence amongst survivors and government decision-makers, to establish a viable peace and to gain support. Known as the Ukrainian Network of Women Affected by Violence, the network is composed of 15 members throughout Ukraine, with the aim to play a key role in the political arena in Ukraine, raising general awareness — especially within the government – and supporting the emotional recovery of other survivors. The survivors have underscored the importance of solidarity among women to break the silence, and to campaign for their rights.
In the past year members of the network have visited Kosovo and Bosnia, to meet with representatives of the UN, with the ambassadors of Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the EU, and victims’ associations that provide assistance to victims of sexual violence in conflict. They also met with the Grand Mufti in Bosnia, who has made significant efforts to overcome stigma and change attitudes towards survivors.
The visit had a deep impact on them, as they learned first hand about the processes of negotiating and implementing reparations for survivors of wartime sexual violence. For the Ukrainian survivors this exchange brought the realisation that survivors of conflict-related sexual violence were recognised in Kosovo only 15 years after the end of the war, and they were finally granted the status of victims, eligible to receive reparations, 20 years after the end of the war.