The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution condemning sexual violence in warfare, but only after language on a woman’s right to “reproductive health” was removed to avert a veto by the anti-abortion Trump administration.
The German-sponsored resolution expresses “deep concern at the full range of threats and human rights violations and abuses experienced by women and girls in armed conflict and post-conflict situations.” It passed Tuesday with 13 votes in favor and abstentions by Russia and China.
Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. has grown increasingly hostile toward resolutions at the UN General Assembly promoting sexual and reproductive health. The U.S. says such language gives implicit backing for abortion.
“We are extremely surprised that some states asked to withdraw sexual and reproductive health rights” from the resolution text, said François Delattre, France’s ambassador to the world body. “This kind of omission is unacceptable and undermines the dignity of women.”
U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen, speaking at the Security Council, said America is committed to aiding victims of sexual violence, supporting early warning systems to help prevent it and holding perpetrators responsible.
“The United States is resolute in its recognition that conflict-related sexual violence is a matter of international peace and security that demands collective action to promote prevention, hold perpetrators accountable, and support survivors,” Cohen said. He didn’t address the reproductive rights clause.
European ambassadors lamented the removal of the disputed language even as they lauded passage of a resolution intended to fight the rape of women and girls during wars. Among speakers urging action against sexual violence in emotionally charged speeches were Nobel Peace Laureates Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.
The resolution calls for commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions as mechanisms to verify and investigate allegations of violations and abuses of international human rights law.
Clooney, who represents Murad, a Yazidi refugee, called on the council to bring Islamic State perpetrators of rape to justice, telling diplomats this was their “Nuremberg moment.” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the world body is prioritizing the fight against sexual violence.
“Sexual violence continues to be a horrific feature of conflicts around the world,” Guterres said.