Global Justice Center Blog

Briefing to the European Commission and Members of the European Parliament

EU Humanitarian Aid Must Uphold the Rights of Girls and Women Under International Law


A recent change in policy, but not in practice.

In September 2015, the European Commission acknowledged that under international humanitarian law (IHL) and like all persons wounded in war, girls and women impregnated by rape in armed conflict have the right to necessary medical care, including abortions. The EU’s 2016 budget also newly specifies that EU humanitarian aid must be provided in line with the non-discrimination rules of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, and not be subject to any restrictions imposed by other donors. This means that the EU’s humanitarian aid partners must ensure women suffer no “adverse distinction” in their medical treatment options, and must separate their EU funds from US funds in order to avoid the US ban on abortion currently restricting EU funds. The European Commission has yet to make these changes effective. 

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6 Days of Action on Helms Campaign

On August 12th, 2016, GJC launched 6 Days of Action on the Helms Amendment. GJC launched a White House Petition urging President Obama to ensure abortion access for women raped in war.  

The use of rape as a tool of war is undisputed and endemic. In armed conflicts around the world, war rape and forced impregnation are strategically used to achieve genocide and to demonstrate political and military dominance. Whether it is ISIS trafficking Yazidi women into sex slavery, Boko Haram kidnapping and impregnating schoolgirls, or South Sudanese soldiers engaging in mass rape of aid workers and other civilians, the international community must do more. It must work to prevent the use of rape as a weapon of war, and also to ensure that survivors receive all necessary medical care, including the option of safe abortion.

Failure to offer abortion care to survivors of war rape is, at its core, unlawful sex discrimination. The Geneva Conventions clearly state that women must be treated with “all consideration due their sex,” and that their specific needs, as women, must be taken into account.

Due to the US Helms Amendment, no US foreign aid goes to any organization performing abortion services, acting as a ban on abortion services around the world, including to women raped in war. Our petition asks President Obama to issue an Executive Order lifting this abortion ban.

During the 6 Days of Action, Akila Radhakrishan published an article in Time Magazine titled, “How Obama Failed Women Raped in War." Grant Shubin published in Ms. Magazine, “How Seven Words Deny Abortions to Women Raped in War” and Janet Benshoof and Ellie Smeal published in Huffington Post, "“What does “One Humanity” mean for victims of war rape around the world?”  

We have 30 Days to get 100,000 signatures. If we do, the White House has to respond.


Watch in 1 minute How Helms Hurts Women and Girls in War and sign the petition today.