Girls as young as 10 are being raped by Russian soldiers, an Irish MEP has warned as the conflict enters its tenth week.
Former Tánaiste Frances FitzGerald currently serves as a Co-ordinator on the European Parliament’s Women's Rights Committee and says the use of rape as a weapon of war by Russian soldiers has become increasingly common:
“The truth is women and girls as young as 10, as old as 78 are being raped by Russian soldiers,” Ms FitzGerald told The Anton Savage Show.
“Hard to believe the level of atrocity that is going on and of course rape is a crime against women.
"It’s a war crime. It’s a total crime against humanity.
“We’ve reports of 9 out of 25 women [having been] systematically raped in a basement in Bucha.”
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‘Embedded in the approach’
The use of rape as a weapon of war has a long and ugly history; during the Second World War soldiers in the Red Army raped thousands of women as they fought their way west to Berlin.
So common was sexual violence that a memorial to Soviet soldiers was derisively nicknamed The Tomb of the Unknown Rapist by some Berliners in the post-war years.
For Frances FitzGerald, it is clear that the reports she has received are not isolated incidences:
“Unfortunately, it seems to be very systematic,” she continued.
“One has to say, could it really be a few renegade soldiers when we’re getting so many reports of women being systematically raped.
“It seems to be embedded in the approach that the army is taking which is just absolutely shocking in this day and age.”
How Europe can help
Ms FitzGerald continued that it is extremely hard to secure a conviction for rape - even in a peaceful and democratic society like Ireland.
However, she stressed that European countries have a duty to do everything they can to help those women who come forward - whether they are seeking medical help or justice.
“We have to first of all help the women in as many ways as we possibly can. We’ve a great record here of helping women with gender based violence with services like the rape crisis centre and so on,” she added.
“These women are going to need all of those services; access to sexual reproductive healthcare which is of course is not available when you’re in the middle of the type of situation that we’re in.
“But as soon as they reach the borders, we really have to try and reach out and help them”.
“The second thing we have to do is gather the evidence now.
“And what’s different now is that Eurojust - which is the European Agency co-ordinating criminal justice - there’s a joint investigation team [that has] gone into Ukraine with Europol and is gathering evidence, taking statements, doing as much as they can.”
Main image: Frances FitzGerald. Picture by: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie