Op woensdag 26 april kwam ik tussen in de Raad van Europa over geweld tegen vrouwen en meisjes op de vlucht. In het advies van de Commissie Migratie, waar ik verantwoordelijk voor was, legden we de nadruk op de hoogst mogelijke wettelijke bescherming, veilige plaatsen op boten en in vluchtelingenkampen en ook veilige migratieroutes.

Ik drong bovendien aan op de onafhankelijkheid van elke vrouw en elk meisje om zelf te beslissen. De toestemming van de ouders, de voogd of het ziekenhuis is niet nodig. Vrouwen en meisjes beslissen zelf.

Het volledige rapport van rapporteur Gisela Wurm en de Commissie Gelijkheid lees je hier.

Bekijk mijn tussenkomst in het Engels (vanaf minuut 8) hier of mijn reactie in het Nederlands op YouTube:

Het volledige verslag kan je hier nalezen:

Ms de SUTTER (Belgium) – I congratulate Ms Wurm on this excellent report. The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons only had minor comments to make. I therefore express my strong support and hope that members will vote in favour of the report.

The committee proposed a few additional amendments to the draft opinion, mainly to emphasis existing standards and commitments already made by member States. It was important that “girls” are included in the title, because female refugees under 18 are often victims of sexual assault, trafficking and child marriage in their home countries and on their migration routes. As Ms Wurm points out in paragraph 2 of the report, those girls deserve special attention and higher protection standards.

The committee also recommends that all women and girls have the same access to affordable and adequate healthcare services. It explicitly mentions that girls should be free to decide for themselves – they should not require any authorisation to access sexual and reproductive health services. When protecting women against gender-based sexual violence, girls must not be forgotten.

The Istanbul Convention includes girls, but we wanted to make special reference to the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. Women and girls are especially vulnerable and are often at risk from gender-based and sexual violence, so they should enjoy full protection, including refugee status, and a safer transit through the implementation of legal pathways.

Gisela Wurm said in her report that refugee women’s protection has been largely overlooked until now. She is right, and that is really shameful. First, therefore, we firmly recommend the creation of safe reception facilities – on rescue ships, for example, such as the Aquarius in the Mediterranean – especially for pregnant women in transit. Secondly, we truly encourage gender-sensitive asylum procedures for women and girls with a well-founded fear of violence, as recommended in the report. Let us not forget that the migration crisis is far from over. We must still urge our member States to much more effort, in particular for that vulnerable group.

We must not forget that our support for women and girls, especially of their sexual and reproductive rights, is more important than ever. Alternative facts, such as claiming that women and girls cannot decide for themselves or that men will stop raping them when we stop funding sexual and reproductive healthcare, are simply not true. They have never been proven, so let us not accept them. Let us show the world that we and women and girls around the world will not tolerate the alternative facts that are being used as a pretext to leave vulnerable women and girls to themselves.

Let us fight for empowerment, structural funding and confidence – confidence in women, including refugees, among social workers, interpreters, police officers and counsellors. That would empower us all. Let us reinforce that mutual confidence and trust in each other in order to achieve better protection for refugee women and girls.