“Abortion for victims of rape is part of the reparations they are due and the government must take action to develop measures to make abortion a reality for all women in Colombia to improve women’s health and lives in general. Access to abortion for women victim of rape is justice, reparation, and human dignity for them,” – Viviana Bohórquez Monsalve, a human rights lawyer at La Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres.
“We have many conflict situations where women are facing challenges, daily, in regards to rape, abductions…and we think it’s important that President Obama provides leadership by ensuring that services are provided to these many women and girls,” – Bafana Khumalo, co-founder of Sonke Gender Justice, based in South Africa.
Viviana and Bafana were among over 85 activists who stood outside the White House on a cold, rainy December day to stand with women and girls raped in conflict. A diversity of voices gathered that day to call on US leadership to act for women and girls. From Latin America, South Africa, and the Middle East; from human rights, social justice, faith-based, global health, and reproductive rights organizations; men, women, and youth leaders stood together for women and girls.
The rally called on President Obama to take executive action to support safe abortion access for women and girls raped in conflict because wherever there is conflict or crisis, women and girls are raped.
From the Democratic Republic of Congo, to South Sudan, to Syria and Iraq, the use of rape as a weapon of war and torture is widespread.
Bafana did not let us forget the Chibok Girls – the more than 200 school girls in Nigeria who were abducted on April 14, 2014, and forced into marriage. We can only imagine the cruelty they face. We must bring back our girls.
The US is a leading international donor supporting global efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence and must ensure that survivors of rape have access to safe abortion services. But, a 40 year-old, wrong-headed, and misunderstood law – the Helms Amendment – is standing in the way of care.
Ultimately, we want to see Helms go. But, that would take an act of Congress and therefore would be a slow process. But there is something President Obama can do right now that would break barriers to care for survivors of rape: he can take executive action and direct US agencies and the State Department to support safe abortion access overseas for women and girls who survive rape, who survive incest, or whose lives are in danger.
President Obama has already demonstrated his commitment to women and girls here in the US and globally. Because of his leadership, for the first time the US has a National Plan on Women, Peace and Security. We have a White House strategy to address gender-based violence globally. Additionally, Obama has already taken executive action for global LGBT rights and immigration. Now is the time for him to take executive action for women and girls.
And that is why more than 20 organizations from the US and around the world supported the White House rally that was held on the eve of Human Rights Day – to show the president that he has widespread support to take this next step when it comes to the health and rights of women and girls.
With one swipe of his pen, the president can break barriers to post-rape care. We must continue to stand up, speak out, and show him we are ready to support him.
Learn more and watch inspiring speeches from the White House rally here.