Libya’s cabinet introduced a decree last week that will recognize women raped during the 2011 uprising as war victims and provide them with compensation. Compensation could come in the form of financial assistance, a safe place to stay, and physical and psychological health care.

While there are no confirmed figures, it is estimated that hundreds of women were raped during the 8-month conflict that toppled Muammar Gaddafi . The International Criminal Court collected evidence that Colonel Gaddafi ordered the rape of women as a weapon against rebel forces.

Rape victims often face stigma in the conservative country, so it is likely that many victims will not come forward. Libya’s justice minister Salah al-Marghani said money could be provided to “elevate the status of victims, so they are not looked at as a burden,” by sending victim’s parents to Hajj, an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.

The BBC says the decree awaits congressional approval, but the justice ministry will not wait for passage in order to avoid further delays in compensation.

For many victims of war, resources provided by US humanitarian aid ease their suffering; but for victims of war rape care is limited.  Survivors of war rape are often denied access to comprehensive medical care that includes the option of abortion, largely because of US policy that is wrongly interpreted to place anti-abortion restrictions on humanitarian aid in conflict zones – in direct violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions. Girls and women systematically raped during conflict face increased rates of maternal mortality, permanent reproductive damage, and obstetric fistula, in addition to isolation and trauma. Without access to the option of abortion care, victims are forced to risk their health – either by carrying unwanted pregnancies to term, seeking dangerous methods of abortion or, in many tragic cases, taking their own lives.

TAKE ACTION: Urge President Obama to issue an executive order lifting the ban on abortion restrictions in conflict zones, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

Media Resources: Reuters 2/19/14; Ahram Online 2/19/14; BBC 2/20/14; Feminist Newswire 11/12/12

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