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France indignant at US weakening UN resolution on sexual violence in conflicts

media The UN Security Council meets at UN headquarters on 23 April 2019 Drew Angerer/AFP/Getty Images North America

France voiced its indignation over the watered-down United Nations Security Council resolution on sexual violence in conflict, which was passed on Tuesday night after a key phrase was removed because US President Donald Trump’s administration considers it a code for abortion.

"We deplore that the veto threats were brandished by permanent members of the council to challenge 25 years of gains for women's rights in situations of armed conflict," said France’s UN ambassador François Delattre after the vote.

"It is incomprehensible that access to sexual and reproductive healthcare is not explicitly recognised for victims of sexual violence – those who are often the target of atrocious abuses and barbaric mutilations.”

The resolution expresses the council's deep concern at "the slow progress" in addressing and eliminating sexual violence in conflicts around the world.

But it was adopted only after a reference was cut referring to the need for UN bodies and donors to give timely "sexual and reproductive health" assistance to survivors of sexual violence in conflict. This has been included in resolutions adopted by the Security Council in 200 and 2013, and in several annual resolution adopted by the general assembly.

"It is intolerable and incomprehensible that the Security Council is incapable of acknowledging that women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict – and who obviously didn't choose to become pregnant - should have the right to terminate their pregnancy,” added Delattre.

Acting US Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen did not speak after the council vote.

This was the latest in a string of policy reversals that some diplomats say has been driven by US Vice President Mike Pence, a conservative Christian who staunchly opposes abortion rights.

The Trump administration cut US funding in 2017 for the UN Population Fund because it "supports, or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation," a characterisation that the UN says was inaccurate.

In 2018 the administration unsuccessfully tried to remove language on sexual and reproductive health from several General Assembly resolutions, then failed in a similar campaign last month during the annual UN Commission on the Status of Women meeting.

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