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U.S. Welcomes Resolution on Violence against Women and Girls
June 14, 2013

General Statement by the Delegation of the United States on the adoption of the resolution entitled
“Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women: preventing and responding to rape and other forms of sexual violence.”

as delivered by Ambassador Eileen Donahoe
Human Rights Council – 23rd Session
June 14, 2013

The United States welcomes the resolution entitled “Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women: preventing and responding to rape and other forms of sexual violence.” We strongly support this Council’s continuing commitment to the human rights of women and girls everywhere and to insisting upon the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls. By renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, this Council is sustaining a vital tool in global efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls.

Ending the global scourge of violence against women and girls will require comprehensive support services for survivors, accountability for perpetrators, redoubled efforts to prevent abuse, and the common recognition that women and girls have inalienable human rights and fundamental freedoms. These efforts should be directed to ending all forms of gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence, which is the most prevalent form of violence against women and girls globally. One in three women worldwide will experience gender-based violence in her lifetime, and in some countries, 70 percent of females are affected. Members of particularly vulnerable populations, including women and girls with disabilities, lesbians and transgender persons, and indigenous women and girls are at increased risk.

Intimate partner violence and this resolution’s particular focus, sexual violence, must be prevented and addressed through a holistic approach. The World Health Organization defines intimate partner violence to include “acts of physical aggression, psychological abuse, forced intercourse and other forms of sexual coercion, and various controlling behaviours such as isolating a person from family and friends or restricting access to information and assistance.” Violence perpetuates a cycle of violence; evidence shows that children who witness or experience violence are more likely to perpetrate violence and/or experience violence as adults. Emerging evidence shows that in post-conflict situations, intimate partner or domestic violence can increase due to a general breakdown in rule of law or societal norms.

Violence seriously jeopardizes the physical and mental health of women and girls, including, in many instances, their sexual and reproductive health. Respecting and promoting the human rights of women – including the right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality free from coercion, discrimination, and violence – must be at the heart of our efforts to end violence against women and girls or we will never succeed.

To that end, we are pleased that this resolution recognizes the strong connection between sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights and efforts to address and end violence against women, including rape. Reproductive rights, originally defined in the International Conference on Population and Development’s Program of Action adopted in 1994 and elaborated and reaffirmed in numerous intergovernmental documents since then, provide the foundation for our global effort. Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so. The implementation of these instruments is contributing significantly to progress on preventing, mitigating, and ultimately eliminating violence against women and girls.

For women, the risk of pregnancy is also an important possible outcome of rape. We are pleased to note that the Commission on the Status of Women and CPD recognized the significance for survivors of access to emergency contraception, safe abortion, and post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. This Council should do the same.

The United States remains deeply concerned by incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence in armed conflict, as well as in other situations of violence or instability. We must ensure that those who perpetrate these crimes are held accountable. In that regard, we strongly support the resolution’s call for States that contribute to UN operations to take all appropriate measures to address and prevent rape and other forms of sexual violence, including by investigating and, as appropriate, prosecuting allegations of misconduct. We also underscore the important role that trained experts play in investigating allegations of mass rapes or systematic sexual violence. In this regard, we welcome the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Women, and others in expanding the availability of gender, linguistic, and regional experts for deployment for these important investigations.

In conclusion, the United States is pleased to renew our commitment to supporting the Council as it redoubles its efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.