The U.S. threatened to veto a United Nations resolution intended to combat rape as a weapon of war when it was being negotiated in late April, joining Russia and China in opposing a proposed formal mechanism for monitoring and reporting atrocities that was ultimately scrapped in the approved final version of the resolution. It also succeeded in watering down references to to sexual or reproductive health, arguing that such language implies support for abortions, and has been pushing since October 2018 to replace references to “gender” in official U.N. documentation with explicit references to women, swapping phrases such as “gender-based violence” for ones like “violence against women.”
Rape itself was formally included as an offense that could be prosecuted in war crimes tribunals in the late 1990s and early 2000s, during investigations in the aftermath of conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. A feature-length documentary released last year, The Prosecutors, tells the story of three lawyers taking part in investigations like these, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the aim of ensuring sexual violence is discovered and prosecuted. The documentary screens Monday evening at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and will be followed by a discussion with Kim Thuy Seelinger, the director of the Sexual Violence Program at Berkeley School of Law’s Human Rights Center and Patricia Viseur Sellers, special advisor for gender at the International Criminal Court’s Office of the Prosecutor. Kim and Patricia join today’s show to chat about the film and about international measures to combat conflict-related sexual violence.