As President Biden has said, it’s on all of us—government, international organizations, civil society, and individual citizens—to forcefully condemn sexual violence without equivocation and without exception. Following the end of the 16 Days of Action Against Gender-Based Violence on December 10, we are reminded that the human rights and safety of women and girls remain under attack globally—including through the persistent threat of sexual violence in conflict and crisis settings.
The United States stands in solidarity with the women and girls bearing the costs of conflict and instability across the globe—from Ukraine, where Russian forces have committed rape and other atrocities against Ukrainian women; to Sudan, where paramilitary forces terrorize women and girls with sexual violence; to Ethiopia, where we have seen mass reports of sexual violence; to Haiti, where gangs use sexual assault and rape to coerce communities into submission. And in the weeks since October 7, survivors and witnesses have bravely shared accounts of severe sexual violence by Hamas terrorists against women and children in Israel.
Although sexual violence in conflict is widespread, the United States does not accept it as inevitable. Ending gender-based violence has been a priority for President Biden throughout his time in public life: as Senator, Vice President, and since day one of the Biden-Harris Administration. Last year, President Biden signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the U.S. government to strengthen our exercise of financial, diplomatic, and legal tools against sexual violence in conflict—leading to the first-ever imposition of sanctions driven by a focus on conflict-related sexual violence in June of this year.
Building on those efforts, to mark Human Rights week and the end of the 16 Days of Action Against Gender-Based Violence, the Department of Treasury and the State Department issued sanctions against thirteen targets from four countries for their connection to acts of sexual violence—the largest set of financial sanctions and visa restrictions the United States has issued against individuals connected to this abhorrent abuse of human rights.
This includes designations against:
- Two individuals from armed rebel groups in the Central African Republic, who forced girls into sexual slavery and perpetrated rape and sexual assault;
- Four leaders from the ISIS affiliate in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who killed, maimed, and committed sexual violence against women and girls;
- Four gang members from Haiti responsible for or complicit in sexual violence and abduction, one of whom survivors identified as directly responsible for more than 1,000 documented cases of sexual violence in 2022 alone; and,
- Three individuals from government-aligned forces and allied militias in South Sudan who oversaw, ordered, incentivized, or directly engaged in sexual assault, sexual slavery, and gang rape.
Sexual violence in conflict is an affront to our common humanity. When it occurs, perpetrators must be held accountable, and survivors must have access to services and support. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue to prioritize efforts to combat and address gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence, and do all we can to elevate the critical participation of women and girls in efforts to advance justice, peace and stability.