New Report from the UMass Amherst Human Security Lab Reveals Devastating Effects of Ukraine’s Travel Ban on Civilian Men
As Russia’s war in Ukraine passes the 500-day mark, the Human Security Lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has released a new report detailing the far-reaching implications of a travel ban on men imposed by the Ukrainian government shortly after the invasion last year. The ban, which applies to nearly 9.5 million civilian men aged 18 to 60 in Ukraine, has separated families, trapped college students and other nonresidents inside the country, and limited the freedom of movement of transgender women.
“Ukraine is rightly fighting for its life against an invader, but this report shows that it's high time to rethink this particular law on humanitarian and strategic grounds,” says Charli Carpenter, professor of political science and director of the Human Security Lab. “We have a year of evidence that splitting up families and forcing men to stay is harmful, unnecessary and counterproductive to both the war effort and wider goals of democracy and civilian protection.”
The report presents the following key findings:
- The ban leaves civilian men vulnerable to gender-selective massacres.
- The policy continues to be broadly unpopular among the Ukrainian public.
- Restricting the right of civilian men to leave a war zone is inconsistent with international human rights standards.
- Women, children and students are also adversely affected by the ban.
- Lifting or relaxing the ban could increase war morale, reduce corruption, align Ukraine with Europe rather than with Russia and increase remittances from abroad.
- Ukrainians believe they can contribute to the war effort even if they cross the border.
Ukraine is rightly fighting for its life against an invader, but this report shows that it's high time to rethink this particular law on humanitarian and strategic grounds.
Charli Carpenter, UMass Amherst professor of political science and director of the Human Security Lab
The report is based on a comprehensive survey of more than 4,000 Ukrainian citizens, analyses of citizen comments on petitions to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urging him to lift the ban, and numerous consultations with experts and civil-society organizations. It adds context and perspective to the results of an initial survey conducted last year.
The survey responses give rarely discussed insights into the lives of civilians in Ukraine under the Russian onslaught, highlighting the vulnerability of untrained civilian men to harm by Russian troops, as well as the harm to women and children when families are separated.
Though there has been considerable attention to civilian harms from the war, the Human Security Lab is the first organization to directly address the issue of the travel ban itself and how it relates to human rights, civilian protection and military strategy.
Carpenter says the report provides compelling evidence that the ban should be curtailed or repealed. She is calling on humanitarian organizations around the world to advocate for all civilians equally, regardless of gender.
“We hope that President Zelenskyy will listen to his people, adopt an enlightened approach rather than a Soviet-era one, and set an example for other nations with outdated gender-selective laws in wartime,” Carpenter says.
The Human Security Lab is a research collective dedicated to promoting the global public good and amplifying the voices of civilians in conflict zones. The full report, “Protecting Civilian Men’s Right to Flee the Ukraine War: Strategic and Humanitarian Impacts,” and information about the lab’s other work can be found at humansecuritylab.net.
The survey from July 2022 showed that fewer than half of Ukrainians believed that men should be forced to stay in the country.