Photo Credit: Dano/Flickr

Why Did the US Oppose a UN Resolution on Rape as a Weapon of War?

Warfare is a nasty business. Too often, it’s not just the uniformed troops killing and maiming each other, but the civilians caught in the middle as well. Tragically, it is often women who bear a major brunt of this, in the form of sexual violence. Though not a new tool employed in war, rape as a weapon is finally getting the international recognition it deserves.

This past week a draft resolution heading for a vote by the United Nations Security Council was created to not merely condemn rape as a weapon but to commit to providing a survivor-first, on-the-ground way of helping those affected by this horrible practice. However, the resolution vote almost didn’t happen at all — thanks to opposition from the United States.

Why would the United States threaten to veto such a seemingly straight-forward resolution? Per the Trump administration, the U.S. would not support any UN resolution that contains any language that refers to sexual or reproductive health. The presumption is that this is due to the administration’s increasingly hardliner stance against birth control and abortion.

The draft resolution does not explicitly refer to either of those points, however. As UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict Pramila Patten explains, “It will be a huge contradiction that you are talking about a survivor-centered approach and you do not have language on sexual and reproductive healthcare services, which is for me the most critical.”

Eventually, however, the UN relented and removed the contested pieces of the resolution which would have begun a process of building international cooperation to provide such services for sexual violence survivors in war zones.

Though this version of the resolution on rape as a weapon during war eventually passed the UN Security Council with U.S. support, a number of other nations’ representatives expressed disappointment over the move. As the French representative Francois Delattre lamented, this represents “going against 25 years of grains for women’s rights in situations of armed conflict” due to the protests of a single country.

The Trump administration previously announced its intent to forego support for a previous UN resolution which acknowledged wartime use of rape as a weapon.

The Trump administration’s stubborn stand over this resolution was an unfortunately predictable act, for two key reasons. The first comes in the form of President Donald Trump’s consistent disdain for international cooperative bodies such as NATO and the UN — this tact has remained relatively steady since his 2016 campaign. The other, however, comes from an increasing push from Trump to further consolidate his conservative Christian support base.

This second point coincides with Trump shifting into 2020 campaign mode. This arguably began in a significant way with his nomination and eventual confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court last year, a move meant to make the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade that much more realistic.

This strategy has expanded since then; digging in his heels over this UN resolution is only the most recent example. Additionally, Trump controversially announced his intent to disallow transgender individuals to enlist in the military as well as his push earlier this year for an initiative to mandate “bible literacy” classes in public schools.

Let’s be clear: These and other moves from Trump and his administration are merely posturing done to bring in campaign money — even if it means sacrificing the well-being of thousands of survivors of rape in war zones around the world.

This article was originally published on on May 4, 2019.

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