How to stand up for women during political conflict

Our slogan ‘We stand up for women’ encourages us all to speak up.

To openly stand up for the rights of women in our countries. However, Soroptimist International and Soroptimist International of Europe remained rather reserved when Russia invaded Ukraine, where so many women became victims of separation from their families, poverty, trafficking, violence and rape, if not death. Why did we not condemn the invasion? Similarly, looking at the recent developments in Iran, would it not be obvious that our organisation should openly express our feelings of outrage against the regime?


It is, unfortunately, not so easy.


According to the preamble of the statutes of SI and of SIE, we are obliged to remain ‘strictly neutral on matters of controversy between nations, states, political parties and religion’ – cited from the SIE statutes, which you can read by logging into our extranet.


We are an NGO that defends the human rights of women and girls, but one that will always refrain from expressing an opinion on the political or religious reasons for the violation of those rights.


In cases like Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, and in any cases of military conflict, our statements must not discuss the political background. Thus, SI president Maureen’s recent statement on human rights violations does not condemn, but rather calls to mind the international treaties on women’s rights that those countries adhere to and have violated. The diplomatic terrain demands that our statements are fact-driven and focused on the human rights of women, that we leave our feelings aside and refrain from taking sides – apart from being firmly on the side of women and girls.


Would you not agree that we are much more credible when we, the experts on women’s rights, talk about women rather than about state or geopolitical matters?



So where do we stand on recent violations of women’s and girls’ human rights?


Read our statements


Bettina Hahne