Legislation adds sexual violence to U.S. human rights reporting and existing sanctions laws


Washington (June 11, 2019) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Representative Chellie Pingree (ME-01) today introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation that elevates the prevention of, and response to, conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence as a priority in U.S. foreign policy. Despite progress in raising the profile of the sexual and gender-based violence in conflicts, rape and sexual assault continue to be a tool of war in a number of countries, including Syria, Burma, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Extremist organizations continue to use rape and sexual slavery to terrorize communities, and sexual violence has been used as a form of ethnic and religious persecution or genocide against Yazidis, Rohingya Muslims, Christians, and Turkmen Shi’a.


“During wars and other conflicts, rape and sexual violence unleash a special type of cruelty,” said Senator Markey. “These brutal acts not only target the victims, but also entire communities. Countries that cannot adequately counter this scourge will be unable to achieve peace and prosperity. This legislation will ensure U.S. foreign policy treats conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence as a priority, and makes sure that any perpetrators responsible for carrying out rape and sexual assault are held accountable for their heinous actions.”   


“Sexual and gender-based violence has long been the weapon of choice for despots willing to use any means necessary to silence opponents and innocent civilians during war. Holding these criminals accountable for their barbaric crimes is a critical component to ending conflict worldwide, and that is exactly what this legislation seeks to do,” said Senator Shaheen. “As a global leader, the United States must be an example to other nations by making it clear that there will be repercussions for those who engage in mass rape and other forms of sexual violence. This legislation makes the fight against such atrocities a top foreign policy priority, and I encourage Senate leadership to bring it up for a vote.”


“By enhancing penalties against perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict zones, our bipartisan legislation will ensure that the U.S. continues to take a leadership role in protecting women and girls around the world. Combatting this violence is a pressing human rights issue and a moral issue for us all,” said Senator Collins. “I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues to end violence against women and girls and to provide the assistance and resources necessary to achieve this goal.”


“The United States must stand against sexual and gender-based violence. Far too often, rape and sexual assault are used as tactics of war in conflict zones,” said Rep. Pingree. “Our government should update its reporting and policies, like Global Magnitsky Act sanctions, to ensure that these crimes are among the human rights abuses for which we hold governmental officials accountable.”


A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.


Specifically, the Accountability for Sexual and Gender-based Violence as a Tool in Conflict Act:

  • Requires the State Department to expand reported sexual and gender-based violence in conflict in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
  • Amends the Global Magnitsky Act to add sexual and gender-based violence as a human rights violation that would trigger sanctions under the Act
  • Amends the Section 7031(c) corruption/human rights authority to add sexual and gender-based violence as a trigger for travel restrictions.


The legislation is co-sponsored in the House of Representatives by Congresswomen Jackie Speier (CA-14), Ann Kuster (NH-02), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Grace Meng (NY-06), and Lois Frankel (FL-21).