Global Justice Center Blog

Beyond Killing: Gender, Genocide, and Obligations Under International Law

Executive Summary

Gender permeates the crime of genocide. It is woven into the perpetrators’ planning and commission of coordinated acts that make up the continuum of genocidal violence. It is through these gendered annihilative acts that perpetrators maximize the crime’s destructive impact on protected groups.

Female and male members of targeted groups, by the perpetrators’ own design, experience genocide in distinct ways by reason of their gender. Men and older boys are targeted as a consequence of the gendered roles they are perceived to inhabit, including those as heads of households, leaders, religious authorities, protectors, guardians of the group’s identity, and patriarchs. Assaults on women and girls pay heed to their roles as mothers, wives, daughters, bearers of future life, keepers of community’s and family’s honor, and sources of labor within the home. An understanding of what it means to be male and female in a particular society thus saturates perpetrators’ conceptions of their victims, and of themselves. In particular, the violence directed at women and girls during genocide is fed by existing misogynistic attitudes in society, and the traumatic impacts are magnified by the financial, social, cultural inequalities to which women and girls are subjected. 

Genocide is often understood as a crime committed predominantly through organized mass killings—the majority of victims of which, both historically and today, tend to be male. Consequently, non-killing acts of genocide—more likely to be directed against female members of a protected group—are often cast out of the continuum of genocidal violence. Equally, in privileging the act of killing, other acts of violence committed against men and boys—such as torture, rape, and enslavement—have also been obscured.

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16 Days of Activism: The Fight Against Gender-Based Violence Continues

By: Sofia Garcia

Every year starting on November 25th, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign begins. Since 1991, the fight against gender-based violence has been immortalized from November 25th until December 10th in hopes of galvanizing action to end violence against women and girls worldwide. This year’s #HearMeToo theme is a continuation of this year’s legacy of powerful social media-based movements such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #NiUnaMenos, #BalanceTonPorc, and #NotOneMore. With the ongoing Rohingya genocide a clear example of the urgent need for frameworks that hold perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict accountable, a call to action on gender-based violence, challenging the impunity that allows it to reoccur and escalate, is more important than ever. Under this theme, the UNiTE Campaign to end violence against women seeks to bring activists, policy makers, and the public to the table in order to foster opportunities for dialogue. 

November 25th kicks off the campaign with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and culminates with International Human Rights Day, which sends a powerful message: universal enjoyment of human rights cannot possibly be accomplished until women and girls live in a world free of fear and violence. Raising awareness and encouraging action on gender-based violence worldwide is an important step in the fight towards gender equality. Until women and girls can exist safely without fear of violence, we must continue to discuss the need for policies for preventing and ending assaults on women based on their gender. The days highlighted in the campaign were a deliberate effort to highlight the link between violence against women and girls and human rights violations.  Besides recognizing November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the campaign also includes other significant dates such as:

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Submission to the International Law Commission: The Need to Integrate a Gender-Perspective into the Draft Convention on Crimes against Humanity

I. Intro

The Global Justice Center, international human rights organization, welcomes the International Law Commission’s (“ILC”) decision to codify crimes against humanity to form the basis of a potential Convention. Unlike war crimes and genocide, crimes against humanity are not codified in a treaty outside the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (“Rome Statute”). The development of a treaty on the basis of the ILC’s draft articles presents the opportunity to monitor and enforce the provisions outside of the limited jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “the Court”) and to encourage states to enact national legislation.

Given the unique and powerful opportunity the ILC has to combat impunity and codify progressive standards of international law, the Global Justice Center (“GJC”) believes it is essential to do more than merely replicate the language of the Rome Statute. We call on the ILC to take the opportunity to reflect the progress made and lessons learned in the 20 years since the Rome Statute was adopted, particularly with regard to gender. Specifically, we ask the ILC to reconsider for the purposes of the draft Convention, two specific instances where the Rome Statute has differential treatment of gender-related provisions relative to their non-gendered counterparts: (1) the formulation of the crime of forced pregnancy; and (2) the definition of gender.

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Justice for Victims of Sexual Violence in Conflict: Is It Possible?

By: Sofia Garcia

Just last week, the United Nations Security Council held two Arria-formula meetings open to UN member states, observers, NGOs, and the press. On both occasions, the room felt heavy; men tiptoed around their words and women sat upright, listening intently, almost in indignation. The meetings were titled “Moving from a Culture of Impunity to a Culture of Deterrence: The Use of Sanctions in Addressing Sexual Violence in Conflict” and “On Children Born of Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones”. For both of these meetings, I was in attendance to represent the Global Justice Center and listen to advocates present firsthand accounts of why these issues must be addressed by the international community. These topics have been gaining attention in the media and the international community after the Nobel Committee’s decision to jointly award Yazidi activist Nadia Murad and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege with a Nobel Peace Prize, honoring their work to end sexual violence and rape as a weapon of war.

Over the past year, the world has borne witness to the Rohingya genocide in Burma. This sparked a conversation among activists and leaders about how the crimes perpetrated against Rohingya women, including torture, rape, and sexual abuse, are inherently gendered (read GJC’s legal brief in which we discuss why a gendered analysis of the Rohingya genocide is paramount, particularly when talking about impunity for sexual and gender-based crimes). However, only after sitting in a room with civil society speakers who presented their lived experiences was I able to understand the severity and urgency of the matter.

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Profile of Akila Radhakrishnan in Atlas Women

GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan was profiled in Atlas Women, a community of female-identifying lawyers with expertise in international law.

What drew you to working in international law? And what were your first steps?

I knew from a young age that I wanted to work on issues affecting the rights of women. I was born and spent my early life in India where I saw a different world to that I would see after my family moved to the United States. My mother was widowed with two children before she was 30 years old. She made the decision to move to the States by herself - a tremendous act of bravery and a leap of faith in her own abilities to create a new life for her and her children. I am very fortunate to have a strong female mentor in my mother. Through her, I developed a keen understanding of the particular challenges that women face, and why it is important to empower and support women as they move through the world.

In college, I specialised in political science and international affairs, which gave me the opportunity to go abroad to study as part of my degree. I spent a year at Sciences Po in Lyon, which exposed me to a range of ideas, to a non-US focused world, and to different conceptions of the role that governments, and political life more broadly, could play. I had already decided to go to law school, but gradually my attention was turned to the international dimensions of law.

At the time I applied to law school, I had already worked for two years in a corporate law firm as a paralegal  and I knew that wasn't for me. I applied to University of California at Hastings because it offered a concentration in international law and would allow me to study abroad and to take specialised courses in various facets of public international law. As part of my degree, I spent a semester at the University of Leiden in The Netherlands and while there, I undertook an internship at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. It was a privilege to be able to go abroad and have that experience. 

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