Gender-based violence in the conditions of war in Ukraine

The full-scale war ambivalently changed the situation of gender equality in Ukraine. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2023, an international index that measures the dynamics of gender equality, this year Ukraine took 66th place out of 146, rising from last year’s 81st place, and at the same time ahead of some European countries – Hungary, Greece, Romania, etc.

Despite the full-scale war in Ukraine, thanks to the active involvement of civil society, initiatives are being implemented that contribute to overcoming gender inequality. But at the same time, new challenges are emerging. Many of them are related to the increase in cases of gender-based violence or, for example, to the deterioration of access of vulnerable categories of women to economic and social opportunities.

Despite the positive changes in the legislation and the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, the number of cases of domestic violence against women is increasing dramatically in wartime conditions. According to the National Police, in 10 months of 2023, more than 240,000 complaints about domestic violence were received. More than a dozen officials and experts who work in the humanitarian direction report that the increase in the number of cases of domestic violence is the result of increasing stress, economic difficulties, and unemployment.

During 2022-2023, the REAct system recorded 301 cases of domestic violence against women and trans*women. For comparison, in 2020-2021, this indicator was 117 cases.

In August 2023, the REActor was contacted by Karina (name changed), who had suffered sexual, physical, and psychological violence from her husband for the past week. Pavlo (name changed), Karina’s husband, is a soldier of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and he came home on a short vacation. According to the woman, the week her husband was at home was her life’s most challenging and scariest. Pavlo constantly forced Karina to have sex with him, raped her when she was against it, humiliated, and beat her in every way.

After a week of abuse, Karina could not stand it and called the police. However, the police did not record anything. The law enforcement officers did not even try to talk to the offender and assess the degree of threat to Karina. Moreover, one of the police officers recalled that at one time, the woman was involved in a case related to the use of surfactant. So her husband’s actions, who had also “used” before, did not surprise him at all. The policemen did not help and advised: “to be patient for a little longer because, in a few days, the man will return to the war again.”

Karina desperately ran away from home and called the REActor to request help. After hearing that, the REActor documentator immediately called the patrol and helped Karina file a statement about systematic cases of domestic violence by her husband. The  REActor documentator insisted on the police assessing the situation and issuing an urgent restraining order. Since Pavlo behaved quite aggressively when talking to the police, the law enforcement officers were able to determine the threat to Karina’s life and health, and to immediately stop domestic violence, prevent its continuation or re-commitment, issue an urgent restraining order for five days. The order contained the following measures: an obligation to leave the place of residence of the victim (the location of their joint residence) and a ban on entering or staying in this place.

After receiving the official document, the violence against Karina stopped.

This situation is a vivid example and a reminder to society of the importance of responding to cases of domestic violence, especially in wartime. Awareness of one’s rights, prompt response to human rights mechanisms, and coordinated actions are critical in building a safe environment for Ukrainian society.


As part of the regional campaign “Push forward! To end violence against women and girls”, REAct organized a series of webinars on how to counteract gender-based violence and how to help women who come forward qualitatively. Recordings of webinars in English, Ukrainian, and Russian are available below. In 2023, we encourage new listeners to view the webinar recordings. From November 25, 2023, to January 31, 2024, each participant will receive a unique opportunity to take a short test and a personalized online certificate.

Visit useful materials on the REAct website for more useful courses and publications. Operative data regarding human rights violations of communities vulnerable to HIV/AIDS are available as well on country data factsheets. Read more success stories of response here.