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Protestors denounce sexual violence in Ukraine outside European Parliament

Screenshot taken from the television report on the protest against sexual violence in Ukraine which took place outside the European Parliament, Brussels, Sunday 8 May. (Les Grenades/RTBF)
06:25 09/05/2022

Around 30 women protested against sexual violence and rape "used as a weapon of war in Ukraine," in front of the European Parliament on Sunday, RTBF reports.

The women wore white underwear smeared with fake blood. They held Ukrainian flags (as well as one for the Democratic Republic of Congo) and placards with messages such as: "Women's bodies are not a battlefield", "Soldier, your penis is not a tank", "We will not be able to say that we did not know."

"Rape is a crime," the women also shouted, their fists raised.

"Through our action, we wish to denounce this violence in Ukraine and elsewhere, and reaffirm that we, citizens, women, hear and support survivors," the collective behind the protest said in a statement. They also make the link with rape culture in general "which promotes impunity for aggressors, a fortiori in a context of war."

"This is a fairly spontaneous action of women who are interested in what is happening in Ukraine,” one of the protestors told reporters. “Our action echoes those that have already taken place in Tallinn and Riga but also in Brussels this Friday, May 6."

On that day, about 15 people, mainly Ukrainian refugees, had participated in the same action, calling on European leaders to do their utmost to ensure that investigations are carried out in Ukraine.

On 26 March, another feminist collective took action in Brussels against the sexual exploitation of refugee women, also calling on the European Union to react.

Ukrainian women were also involved in the protest on Sunday. "We can't talk about them without hearing them first,” the protestor said. “It must also be said that it does not exist only in Ukraine, it happens in all places of war.”

“I am very moved, it is beautiful what we manage to do together," she added.

As the protest reached its conclusion, the women came together, hugged each other and then formed a circle. "We want love, not war," they chanted. The protest ended with the reading of two poems, one in French, another in Ukrainian.

Written by Nick Amies