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Biden Strengthens U.S. Response To Sex Violence In Conflict Zones

President Biden is signing a memorandum Monday directing U.S. agencies to strengthen their response to sexual violence in conflict zones, such as in Ukraine. The administration is aiming to ensure that such crimes are given treatment equal to that of other human rights abuses. The State Department and Treasury Department will be directed to use their powers to “the fullest extent possible” to punish acts of conflict-related sexual violence, including through sanctions, the Washington Post reports. The Biden administration pointed to an October United Nations report that found evidence of sexual violence against Ukrainian women and girls as “part of Russia’s military strategy,” a U.S. official said. The investigation identified victims ages four to 80. The Post and other news outlets have interviewed numerous victims of sexual violence in Ukraine who have been reluctant to report their experiences to authorities, making it difficult to prosecute cases.

Biden will sign the memo as Britain kicks off an international ministerial conference to rally a global response to conflict-related sexual violence. The conference will take place in London on Monday and Tuesday. Conflict-related sexual violence {CRSV} is an undermeasured symptom of war. The U.N. estimates that for every rape documented in connection with conflict, there are 10 to 20 cases that go unreported. At the U.N. General Assembly this year, the U.S. set aside an additional $400,000 in funding to the United Nations’ Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, adding to its annual contribution of $1.75 million. The White House said the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor will provide an additional $5.5 million over the next two years, including in Myanmar, Ukraine and Sri Lanka, to aid global efforts to investigate and document acts of CRSV. The latest U.N. report recorded 3,293 cases of CRSV in 18 countries in 2021, an increase of about 800 cases compared with the previous year.


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