STP demands Germany to advocate for the protection of the civilian population in armed conflicts

International Women's Day: Failed politics have alarming consequences for women all over the world

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On the occasion of the International Women's Day (March 8th), the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) published a memorandum to provide documentation for women's fates in armed conflicts, as refugees and in post-conflict societies. "Globally, six out of ten women experience physical or sexual abuse during their lifetime. More and more often, rape is used as a means of warfare in conflicts such as in Syria, in Darfur in western Sudan and South Sudan. The STP sees the women's fates largely as a result of failed politics: violence is often carried out on the backs of the women by looking the other way, by riding out or failing to prevent conflicts. Therefore, the STP demands that the German federal government must show credible commitment to protect the civilian population in armed conflicts. It is not enough to publish strategy papers. Germany's international politics must clearly show commitment for victims all over the world," explained STP-consultant Sarah Reinke on behalf of the human rights organization.

Women and girls are particularly vulnerable when they are on the run – especially single women, expecting mothers and elderly women. The UNHCR has been calling for special protection measures, but the examples of Darfur, South Sudan, Eritrea and North Korea clearly show that the efforts were not enough. Women must fear to be raped or abused if they go out to fetch water or to collect firewood; they are mistreated in torture prisons or deported from China to North Korea, although they are threatened to be detained in labor camps there.

Women, especially if they are members of indigenous peoples, are often defenseless – even without the use of weapons: the Adivasi women in India, for example, who are abused and held as domestic servants. In Canada, up to 3,000 women belonging to the Native Americans, the Inuit or the Métis were murdered or have disappeared in the past decades. The politicians and public authorities are ignoring these cases – and the crimes are mostly either solved inadequately or not at all.

Nowadays, the extent of oppression and violence against women and girls in other parts of the world may seem unimaginable in Germany, but there are women suffering from exploitation or being held as slaves here too. Therefore, the prostitution act of 2002 must be amended according to the coalition agreement as soon as possible: the minimum age for prostitutes must be raised to 21 years and prostitution should only be legal as a self-determined form of work. Regular health checks could help to establish important contacts with the outside world and a registration could help the police to comply with their responsibility of offering protection. Prostitution businesses must be subject to a license and a mandatory tax registration for prostitutes could ensure more transparency, a health insurance and retirement regulations.

At least 50 percent of the approximately 400,000 prostitutes in Germany are members of minority groups who are discriminated against in their home countries in south-eastern or eastern Europe or in Africa. Often, they seek a better life in Germany but fall into the hands of traffickers, who capitalize on their bodies and force them into prostitution.

It is all the more admirable if these women raise their voices on behalf of themselves or others to try and break free from these predicaments and organize projects, actions, peace marches, demonstrations, vigils, or networks with and for other women. There are also examples in Bosnia or Chechnya, where women's rights are systematically violated in the name of dictator Ramzan Kadyrov and tolerated by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Download the 22-page memorandum (in German) concerning women as victims of war and violence.