Biden to sign memo to combat conflict-related sexual violence

The move is intended to further combat rape as a weapon of war.

November 28, 2022, 5:02 AM

President Joe Biden is poised to sign a memorandum boosting the U.S. government's opposition to conflict-related sexual violence in an effort to further combat rape as a weapon of war.

Biden is expected to sign the memo, which will clarify that an act of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) may constitute a serious human rights abuse, on Monday, according to the White House.

The memo is intended to give CRSV an "equal consideration alongside other serious human rights abuses in developing designations under existing sanctions authorities," the White House said.

It also directs the State and Treasury departments, as well as other federal agencies, to use additional tools to hold CRSV offenders accountable.

Biden is releasing the presidential memorandum in conjunction with the United Kingdom's international ministerial conference on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, "at a time when CRSV persists with impunity around the world, including in Russian-occupied Ukraine and Ethiopia," the White House said

A report released by the United Nations in October said that Russian troops have committed war crimes, including rape and sexual violence, against Ukrainian civilians.

"You only need to see a snapshot from what is happening in Ukraine to know how important this presidential memorandum can be in focusing on accountability for conflict related sexual violence," a senior Biden administration official said on a call with reporters Sunday. "It will provide guidance and direction to facilitate targeting the perpetrators of these horrendous acts and bringing them to justice."

President Joe Biden meets with business and labor leaders, Nov. 18, 2022, in Washington.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

The United Nations estimates that 10 to 20 CRSV cases go undocumented for each one reported in connection with a conflict.

A 2021 report by the U.N. Secretary-General found 3,293 U.N.-verified CRSV cases across 18 countries -- 97% of which were targeted toward women and girls.

That number was about 800 more than what was verified by the U.N. in 2020.

The memorandum pledges an additional $400,000, on top of the $1.75 million annual contribution, toward the Office of the U.N. Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, as well as an additional $5.5 million over the next two years to help the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor investigate and document acts of CRSV.

The memo also aims to deliver services and support for survivors of gender-based violence in emergency and conflict settings, as well as increase access to justice, protection, and services to survivors of gender-based violence, according to the White House.

"Together with today's Presidential Memorandum on Promoting Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, these initiatives signal President Biden's ongoing commitment to confront gender-based violence -- in all of its forms -- around the world," the White House said.

ABC News' Justin Gomez contributed to this report.

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