US demands removal of ‘reproductive health’ references from UN sexual violence resolution

US demands removal of ‘reproductive health’ references from UN sexual violence resolution

By Luke Vargas   
Published
Barrister Amal Clooney, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad and fellow Peace Prize recipient Dr. Denis Mukwege at the U.N. Security Council. April 23, 2019. UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Barrister Amal Clooney, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad and fellow Peace Prize recipient Dr. Denis Mukwege at the U.N. Security Council. April 23, 2019. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

UNITED NATIONS – The U.S. watered down a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at assisting victims of sexual violence in armed conflict on Tuesday, dangling a veto threat over German diplomats hoping to promote victims’ access to “sexual and reproductive health” care.

That phrase – present in a quarter-century of U.N. resolutions –caught the ire of Trump administration officials determined to stamp out support for organizations that even mention the availability of safe abortion services.

Jamille Bigio is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women and Foreign Policy program.

“The United States has raised the issue of conflict-related sexual violence across administrations. One of the first U.N. Security Council resolutions that condemned the use of rape as a tool of war was introduced, in fact, by the United States under the George W. Bush Administration.”

The Trump administration could have avoided picking a fight on Tuesday, Bigio suggests, pointing to an interpretation of the “Mexico City policy” banning U.S. tax dollars from supporting foreign groups offering abortion services for family planning.

“This leaves room for interpretation that support for abortion is permitted in the case of rape,” Bigio says, but the U.S. didn’t take that approach.

And as U.S. diplomats convinced their German counterparts to scrub references to “sexual and reproductive health” from the Security Council resolution, lawyer Amal Clooney publicly condemned U.S. efforts making it more difficult for victims of sexual violence to pursue justice, including at the International Criminal Court.

“The United States government has recently said through its National Security Advisory John Bolton and its Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the ICC is ‘dead to us, and that those who support certain ICC investigations can be denied entry to the U.S., have their assets frozen and may even face arrest.’ ”

Bigio said even if a future president reverses what the U.S. did on Tuesday, groups helping victims of sexual violence in armed conflict will have been affected.

“When policy is continually shifting and it’s moving forward and then backward and forward again, it undermines the ability of those fighting for the rights and protections of women and girls, men and boys around the world to be effective at their work.”

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