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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