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Kamala Harris Urges Attention to Hamas's Sexual Violence

US Vice President condemns war-time sexual violence and calls for accountability.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a powerful condemnation of sexual violence as a weapon of war, emphasizing the need for accountability, during a speech at the White House on Monday marking the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

“I especially thank the survivors and advocates that are with us today,” Harris began. “You are fearless advocates in the fight for justice, and you remind us of the resilience of survivors.”

The vice president highlighted the longstanding use of sexual violence in conflicts, describing it as a tactic to “humiliate and terrorize and subdue entire populations.” She referenced several instances globally, including the Russian troops in Ukraine who have “raped women in occupied territories.”

Harris detailed the prevalence of sexual violence in various conflicts around the world, mentioning countries such as Sudan, Haiti, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic, and Congo. Experts estimate that for every documented rape during wars, 10 to 20 more occur, a statistic that underscores the pervasive nature of this atrocity.

“My heart breaks for the trauma and pain inflicted in each of these conflicts,” she said.

Addressing the conflict in the Gaza Strip, Harris stated unequivocally, “Hamas committed horrific acts of sexual violence.” She recounted distressing images of bloodied Israelis, abducted and brutalized, with women found naked from the waist down, their hands tied behind their backs, and shot in the head.

Harris also noted that released hostages have begun sharing their harrowing experiences of sexual violence endured in captivity. “These testimonies, I fear, will only increase as more hostages are released,” she said. “We cannot look away, and we will not be silent. My heart breaks for all these survivors and their families.”

Reiterating the Biden administration’s stance, Harris insisted that Hamas “needs to accept the deal that is on the table for the ceasefire.”

Harris criticized the global system of accountability as inadequate, stressing the collective responsibility of governments, international organizations, civil society, and individuals to confront and eliminate combat-related sexual violence. “It starts, of course, with awareness and acknowledgement,” she said.

Concluding her remarks, Harris declared, “The bottom line is the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war is unconscionable, and any failure to hold perpetrators accountable is a failure to live up to our common humanity.”

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