Home USA News Joe Biden announces program to combat sexual violence in conflict zones

Joe Biden announces program to combat sexual violence in conflict zones

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President Biden wants his administration to consider whether acts of sexual violence have been committed in a conflict zone when determining possible targets for sanctions by the State Department, Treasury Department and other federal agencies.

On Monday, Mr. Biden will sign a presidential memorandum to advance accountability for conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). A senior White House official called CRSV an “too often overlooked crime.”

“We see it spreading in places like Ukraine. The (presidential memorandum) will clarify that an act of CRSV committed by state or non-state actors can constitute a serious human rights violation,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters on Sunday.

Existing regulations allowed for sanctions against groups and individuals responsible for serious human rights violations.

“These powers have rarely been used,” an administration official said. “This gap is particularly concerning at a time when CRSV continues to spread worldwide.”

The United States provides $1.75 million annually to the United Nations office that investigates allegations of sexual violence in conflict zones.

According to the new memo, the White House will add another $400,000 to the effort. The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) has awarded more than $4.5 million to projects that support civil society efforts to investigate and document CRSV activities, White House officials said.

The memo directs agencies to use existing powers “to the fullest extent possible” to promote accountability for CRSV actions, which includes U.S.-imposed visa sanctions and the application of so-called “Leahy laws,” which prohibit the State Department and the Department of Defense from providing military assistance to foreign forces. who violate human rights with impunity.

The White House program will prioritize the prevention and mitigation of gender-based violence in humanitarian activities.

The White House has accused Russia of using sexual violence against women as a tactic in its war against Ukraine. The victims were between 80 and 4 years old.

A recent UN report found 3,292 cases of conflict-related sexual violence worldwide in 2021, an increase of about 800 cases from the previous year. The vast majority of victims, about 97%, were women and girls.

“These crimes are also chronically underreported because of stigma, shame and fear of reprisals,” a White House spokesman said. “For every woman who reports sexual violence in the midst of conflict, another 10 to 20 cases go undocumented and unaddressed.”

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