Opinion: Ideology stands in the way of effective humanitarian aid

By: Ellen Cottee
It’s time Stephen Harper and his Conservative government stop picking and choosing humanitarian funding initiatives based on their own ideologies.

The latest group of people to fall victim to the blind ideological reasoning of the Conservatives are women and girls impregnated after experiencing sexual violence as a war tactic.

The conservative government announced in early October its humanitarian aid projects will not fund abortions for child brides or victims of war rape. Photo by Remy Steinegger/Wikimedia Commons

By: ELLEN COTTEE

It’s time Stephen Harper and his Conservative government stop picking and choosing humanitarian funding initiatives based on their own ideologies.

The latest group of people to fall victim to the blind ideological reasoning of the Conservatives are women and girls impregnated after experiencing sexual violence as a war tactic.

The conservative government announced in early October its humanitarian aid projects will not fund abortions for child brides or victims of war rape. Photo by Remy Steinegger/Wikimedia Commons

The conservative government announced in early October its humanitarian aid projects will not fund abortions for child brides or victims of war rape. Photo by Remy Steinegger/Wikimedia Commons

At the G8 summit in 2010, Canada deemed maternal and child health in developing and conflict-torn regions a top priority, and promised $3 billion of Canada’s humanitarian aid budget would be committed to preserving maternal and child health over the next five years.

Bev Oda, former minister of international co-operation, told reporters in 2010 that contraception and other methods of family planning would be funded. Initiatives that provided abortions for women and girls who had been raped or forced into marriage, however, would not receive monetary aid from Canada.

On Oct. 4, 2013, International Development Minister Christian Paradis stated that new international development programs will follow the same guidelines set out in 2010.

The announcement comes after John Baird, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, said Canada believes forced and child marriages are “unacceptable” during a September 2013 speech at the UN in New York City.

“Forced marriage is rape; it is violence against women,” Baird said, according to the National Post. “Early marriage is child rape, and violence against young girls.”

It’s interesting that the Conservative MP would take such a hard stance against rape and forced marriage when his party’s own humanitarian funding cannot be used for one thing many rape victims require: abortions.

In cases of war, sexual violence is used as a tool to dehumanize and devastate civilians. The UN and Canada are focused on battling these issues, but the current situation faced by those living in conflict must be addressed as well.

“Ensure that sexual violence prevention and response efforts are prioritised and adequately funded,” the first mandate in the UN’s Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict states, “from the first phase and throughout all responses to conflict and humanitarian emergencies.”

An unwanted pregnancy in an area experiencing extreme conflict is a humanitarian emergency.

Safe abortions performed by doctors in a hospital environment pose little or no risk to maternal health. Illegal, back-alley abortions, sadly becoming common in conflict-torn areas, kill and injure women day after day.

Unsafe abortions in developing regions comprise 55 per cent of all abortions, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This leads to thousands of deaths as well as millions of long-term injuries.

It is no secret that the Conservatives are anti-abortion. Harper has stated time and again that he refuses to even discuss abortion laws within Canada. This, however, is not a Canadian case.

These women, sometimes young enough to still be considered children, are living in war-torn countries where each day of their life is a gamble. When they are raped, often repeatedly, they are being used as a pawn of war. They live in fear.

If there is no other option than to have and raise a child under such circumstances, or to attempt a deadly procedure on their own, they are being denied control over their own bodies yet again.

Harper and the Conservatives need to put some meaning behind their words. They claim to care about the lives of women and children living in conflict, yet continue to put these women in a position which seriously endangers them.

Aiding the victims of war crimes is not about ideology; it is about ensuring victims can safely make a choice that is best for them.

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