Biden boosts US effort to stem sexual violence in war zones

President Biden will sign a memorandum on Monday to boost efforts to combat sexual violence in conflict zones, including in Ukraine and Ethiopia.

The Memorandum on Promoting Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence aims to leverage sanctions and other tools for accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence and to ensure that sexual violence is given equal consideration as other serious human rights abuses.

It aligns with the United Kingdom’s international ministerial conference on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, which starts on Monday.

The White House said in a statement that conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) is “a too-often overlooked and underreported crime” and said the memorandum comes “at a time when CRSV persists with impunity around the world, including in Russian-occupied Ukraine and Ethiopia.”

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The United Nations estimates that for every rape in connection to a conflict, 10 to 20 cases go undocumented.

“The United States does not accept CRSV as an inevitable cost of armed conflict, and is committed to supporting survivors through all available measures—including legal, policy, diplomatic, and financial tools—to deter future violence,” the White House said.

The memorandum will also aim to build a coalition of allies and international organizations to prevent and promote accountability for sexual violence in conflict zones.

The US typically contributes $1.75 million to the Office of the U.N. Special Representative to the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, but this year will give an additional $400,000. The State Department will also aim to give a total investment of $10 million over the next two years to projects that investigate and document acts of CRSV in places like Burma, Ukraine and Sri Lanka.

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