SEATTLE, Washington — The use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war remains a pervasive problem internationally. As the world’s wealthiest and most influential nation, the United States bears a particular responsibility in leading efforts to combat the issue. Thus, U.S. lawmakers have introduced a bill aimed at just that. H.R. 894 condemns gender-based violence in armed conflict and seeks to put an end to it by supporting the implementation of the United Nation’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda.
The Women, Peace and Security Agenda
October 2020 marks the 20-year anniversary of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. A major milestone in the global fight for women’s rights, the resolution recognized for the first time “the disproportional impact that armed conflict has had on women and girls and called for the inclusion of a gender perspective in conflict resolution.” After a unanimous vote in its favor, the resolution would then be followed by six additional resolutions, reaffirming the organization’s commitment to the women, peace and security agenda.
In April 2019, the U.N. adopted the latest of these resolutions, UNSCR 2467, though this was not without controversy. Germany’s original draft of the resolution called on the United Nations’ member states to provide “nondiscriminatory and comprehensive health services” for survivors of sexual violence. Notably, these services were to include reproductive and psychosocial healthcare as well as legal assistance.
However, despite general consensus on the initial draft language, it would quickly face opposition from the United States. In this case, the Trump administration threatened to veto, arguing that the draft’s inclusion of language on reproductive healthcare ‘could be interpreted as supporting abortion.’ Consequently, the U.N. would remove the language from the final draft of the resolution.
Breaking Down House Resolution 894
In anticipation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda’s 20-year anniversary, H.R. 894 seeks to express the continued commitment of the United States government to the cause. That means taking a feminist approach to foreign policy, one which centers around the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
In effect, H.R. 894 affirms that it is the policy of the United States government to:
- Promote and encourage the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention and resolution
- Prevent the use of gender-based violence in conflict
- Ensure “accountability for victims and survivors”
Furthermore, H.R. 894 directs U.S. foreign policymakers to challenge gender-based discrimination and inequality. In particular, it encourages the U.S. government to support and protect efforts by “international institutions and organizations” to empower women. This means fostering an environment in which women can fully participate in defending their own human rights and holding governments accountable. Additionally, it calls on the U.S. government to support international efforts to provide comprehensive, universal access to sexual and reproductive health information and services.
Status of the Resolution
Rep. William R. Keating [D-MA-9] introduced H.R. 894 on March 10, 2020. Subsequently, the resolution was then referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and is in the first stage of the legislative process. As of May 18, 2020, H.R 894 does not yet have any cosponsors.
Though much work has been done since 2000, the use of sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflicts remains a grave global problem. H.Res. 894 and the international Women, Peace and Security Agenda seek to put an end to this violence.
– Sarah Frazer