The United Nations Security Council just removed language pertaining to sexual and reproductive health from a resolution about rape as a weapon of war, Business Insider reports. The change came following pressure from the United States, which threatened to veto the resolution if the language was not modified.
The pressure applied by the U.S. has been largely attributed to the Trump administration's efforts to influence the use of terminology and ideas related to reproductive health and gender rights. Some members of the Trump administration reportedly connect such language with abortions and seek to curtail it wherever possible.
The final resolution, which still demonstrates progress toward combating sexual violence, nonetheless has troubled many members of the Security Council. Once the language was removed, the resolution was passed with a 13-0 vote, with Russia and China abstaining.
According to a United Nations source who was present during the negotiations and who spoke on the condition of anonymity, there were three options available to the Security Council when the U.S. threatened a veto. They could remove the contested language and pass a weaker resolution that would become the new standard going forward, they could remove the language but still make clear that stronger language from older resolutions with respect to reproductive health remains in force, or they could keep the language and likely draw a veto from the U.S.Some examples of language from earlier resolutions is available.
For example, a 2013 resolution calls out "the need for access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health care, including regarding pregnancies resulting from rape, without discrimination." Similarly, a 2009 resolution includes language referring to "access to basic services, in particular health services, including sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights."
In addition to removing language related to sexual health, the final resolution also included language about creating a monitoring body to address sexual violence taking place in conflict zones.
Many critics of the move are now decrying the American stance on the issue, suggesting that social politics within the country are now beginning to influence substantive international policy around the world.
"It is unthinkable and bizarre to see the US lining up with Russia and China to block efforts to strengthen the UN's ability to effectively address rape in conflict and to provide sexual violence survivors with sexual and reproductive health services," said Jessica Neuwirth, a former special advisor on sexual violence for the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights.