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140+ Organizations Demand Biden Administration Implement International Recommendations on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

More than 140 organizations signed onto a letter sent to President Biden today urging him to implement recommendations on sexual and reproductive rights issued by United Nations member states. The recommendations came as part of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a process that reviews the human rights records of all UN Member States.

Signing organizations represent a diverse cross-section of issues and expertise, including in human rights, reproductive rights, racial justice, and global health. The full letter and list of signees can be found here: http://bit.ly/BidenUPRletter

The US received numerous UPR recommendations, and several countries called for the US to take action on its abortion restrictions on foreign assistance, in particular the Helms AmendmentThe Biden administration responded to these recommendations, but did not mention Helms and instead referred to their recent repeal of the Global Gag Rule.

To implement these recommendations, the letter outlines several executive and administrative actions the administration can take now:

  • Take executive action and issue guidance to immediately clarify US foreign assistance can be used to provide abortion care in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment of the pregnant person
  • Issue guidance from relevant agencies to proactively clarify that US foreign assistance may be used for abortion information and counseling under the Leahy Amendment
  • Prioritize the removal of abortion funding restrictions like the Helms Amendment through the White House Gender Policy Council, in addition to addressing many other important sexual and reproductive health and rights priorities and considering the role of racial and other forms of discrimination on recipients of sexual and reproductive healthcare in the US and globally
  • Consult with stakeholders and agencies to issue policies to combat systemic racism and ensure implementation of these policies at the state, federal and local levels, recognizing domestic US policy influences the values exported through US foreign assistance 
  • Eliminate Helms Amendment and similar abortion funding restrictions from FY 2022 budget

Four of the signing organizations issued the following statements:

“The Biden administration says it is committed to advancing sexual and reproductive rights around the world. Now, they have an opportunity to prove it,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center. “A failure to implement these recommendations would make the US commitment to the human rights system be mere rhetoric, and worse yet, rhetoric that is directly undermined by the failure to act.”

“It is time for the U.S. to join the global community to support and defend reproductive justice,” said Dr. Anu Kumar, president and CEO of Ipas. “Ending abortion funding restrictions like the Helms Amendment will protect people seeking abortion, will help countries expand access to health services, and will bring us closer to achieving reproductive and economic freedom and equity for millions worldwide. This policy has harmed Black and brown communities in low-to-middle income countries for far too long.”

“It is not enough to remove the Global Gag Rule and maintain the pre-Trump status quo,” said Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, Founder & President of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. “The Biden administration must go further to advance reproductive justice by supporting repeal of the Helms Amendment and advancing racial justice in the United States. The last year demonstrated how much further the US has to go to achieve racial justice and eliminate white supremacy from our domestic and foreign policy. This cannot wait.”

“This is an opportunity for Biden’s administration to fulfill its commitment to reproductive health care by completely removing abortion funding restrictions from US foreign assistance, ensuring that no woman, girl, or young person dies from an unsafe abortion as a result of stigma, lack of information, and lack of life-saving services,” said Nelly Munyasia, Executive Director of Reproductive Health Network Kenya. “One death as a result of unsafe abortion is far too many deaths.”

 

President Biden Repeals ICC Sanctions

NEW YORK — The Biden administration today repealed sanctions against the International Criminal Court. 

The sanctions, levied against Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and other court officials, were issued by President Trump last year following the court’s announcement of an investigation into potential war crimes committed by US military forces in Afghanistan.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“The Biden administration did the right thing today by ending this reckless assault on a critical and independent judicial institution. Former President Trump’s sanctions were issued to help the US and its close allies evade accountability for their own human rights abuses, but their impact went much further by targeting court officials and their urgent work.

“Repeal is a start, but if the Biden administration wishes to be a true champion of human rights and the rule of law, it must fundamentally shift the US relationship with the court. This must include a genuine effort to ratify the court’s Rome Statute to demonstrate that the US commitment to justice is not merely rhetorical.

“For too long, the US approach to the court has been hypocritical, cementing a belief that it is beyond reproach and above the law. It’s time for the US to take its own human rights obligations seriously and submit itself to the international institutions they champion, thus beginning a robust, healthy engagement with this vital institution.”

Akila Radhakrishnan Named in List of Top 100 Influencers in Gender Policy

NEW YORK — In a list launched today, Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan was named by Apolitical as one of the world's 100 most influential people in gender policy in 2021. This year's list includes prominent feminist politicians, activists, and academics such as Jacinda Arden, Patricia Viseur Sellers, Stella Nyanzi, Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, and many more. 

Akila was featured for her work on gender-based violence and, specifically, her legal advocacy on abortion access in conflict and the gendered aspects of genocide. Other honorees were featured for their work on economic justice and rights, reproductive rights, climate change, technological innovation, and movement leadership.

You can view the full list here: https://apolitical.co/list/en/gender-equality-100

Myanmar Representative to UN Denounces Coup and Urges Security Council Action

NEW YORK — During a briefing before the United Nations General Assembly today, Myanmar’s representative to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, denounced the coup carried out by his country’s military. He also urged the UN Security Council and international community to use “any means necessary” to hold the military accountable.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“The world should applaud the bravery of Representative Kyaw Moe Tun for delivering such a powerful statement on behalf of the people of Myanmar, not the illegitimate military junta. The international community must reward such courage by taking up his call for immediate, decisive action to hold the military accountable.

“The representative made his statement on behalf of the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluuttaw (CRPH), composed of duly elected members of parliament, not the illegal military regime. The international community should support the will of the people of Myanmar by recognizing the CRPH and refusing to legitimize, normalize, or cooperate with the military government.

“In defending his people and democracy on the world stage, the representative made it clear that the military poses an existential threat to the country and that the coup must fail. The path to a peaceful, democratic, and multi-ethnic Myanmar will require steps to financial isolation of the military and their access to arms, accountability for military crimes, and — perhaps most importantly — a new federal Constitution.

“The people of Myanmar have spoken at great risk to their personal safety and security. Now is the time for the international community to stand with them and take forceful, concerted action.”

UN Human Rights Council Passes Resolution on Myanmar Coup

NEW YORK — The United Nations Human Rights Council today passed a resolution on human rights concerns in Myanmar following the military coup. The resolution followed an emergency session requested by the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The resolution, adopted by consensus, denounced the coup and the violations of civil and human rights that followed. It called on Myanmar’s military and security forces to refrain from violence and protect fundamental human rights. It also requested further UN monitoring of the situation and called for Myanmar’s cooperation.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“The council took an important step today by passing a resolution against the coup and urging respect for democratic and human rights. The resolution rightly called on the Myanmar military to release those arbitrarily detained, including Aung San Suu Kyi. But, it failed to address the most necessary condition for change: accountability.

“Structural impunity for crimes committed by the military is what emboldened the military to stage a coup. The international community has continually failed to combat this impunity cemented by Myanmar’s pseudo-democratic constitution. The council could have taken the opportunity today to confront this failure by acknowledging that there is no sustainable path forward for Myanmar without accountability for those responsible for human rights violations.

“People across Myanmar are uniting more and more around the demand to bring the military under civilian control. They recognize that the military is the chief obstacle to democracy and human rights in the country. It’s time the international bodies like the UN Human Rights Council recognize this fact that the coup has made undeniable.”