How the International Criminal Court Has Failed LGBTQ Survivors

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine op-ed by former GJC intern Claire McLeod.

Gender has long been used as a tool to carry out mass atrocity crimes. These persecutions include not only discrimination based on gender identity, but also sexual orientation. Members of targeted groups, by the perpetrators’ own design, experience violent crimes in distinct ways by reason of their sexuality and gender. Further, the enactment of violent crimes can vary based on cultural beliefs and prejudice against the targeted group held by the perpetrator and society. And yet, despite the inextricable role played by gender and sexuality, the ICC and international criminal law at large have generally failed to apply either in analyzing mass atrocity crimes. 

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There can be no real accountability in Myanmar if women remain on the sidelines

Excerpt ofWomen's Media Center op-ed co-authored by GJC Senior Burma Researcher Phyu Phyu Sann.

Myanmar presents one of the world’s most difficult challenges to combating impunity, assisting victims, and reforming the institutions responsible for committing sexual violence and other crimes in conflicts. For years, women in Myanmar have called on the international community to intervene to put meaningful pressure on their human rights abusers. They are demanding an end to military control in the country and accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence and other egregious crimes against women.

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Gender Inequality and Sexual Violence in Myanmar: Part of the Problem is Preventing a Cure

Excerpt ofMizzima op-ed by GJC Senior Burma Researcher Phyu Phyu Sann & GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

When it comes to protecting women from violence in Myanmar, what little difference a year makes. Last year during the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, the Government pledged to submit a Prevention of and Protection from Violence Against Women (PoVAW) Law to Parliament in early 2019 and give “priority and focus” to protecting women and children from violence.  As we approach another 16 Days of Activism, the PoVAW law, in the drafting stage since 2013, has not yet been submitted to Parliament, making clear that protecting women from violence is far from a priority or focus for the current Government.

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Episode 12 – Genocide and gender with Akila Radhakrishnan

Excerpt of Asymmetrical Haircuts podcast episode that features GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

We grabbed Akila Radhakrishnan – the president of the Global Justice Center based in New York, an international human rights organisation focused on gender equality and the rule of law, that’s been at the centre of all the lobbying for this move. 

Their special interest is in the gendered nature of genocide – check out their reports The Rohingya from Discrimination to Destruction– and Beyond Killing by the amazing Sareta Ashraph.

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Women, peace, security agenda approaches 20th year with shaky progress

Excerpt of Devex article that quotes GJC Deputy Legal Director Grant Shubin.

The Security Council passed a new resolution on Wednesday calling for the full implementation of 1325, showing the “urgency and need” for making good on the agenda, according to Grant Shubin, the deputy legal director of the Global Justice Center. But the new resolution has its own gaps, including the fact that it does not have any sexual and reproductive health and rights language, Shubin said.

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Discrimination by Design: Key Points for the Universal Periodic Review of Iraq

In advance of the Human Rights Council’s forthcoming review of Iraq, it is critical that attention is paid to the need for fundamental reform of Iraq’s legal system in order to achieve justice for Daesh’s victims, and more broadly for the people of Iraq. As currently codified, Iraq’s criminal laws do not punish the most egregious aspects of Daesh’s sexual and gender-based violence. If prosecuted under these laws, basic features of Daesh’s crimes will go unpunished, such as rape with objects, forced marriage, and gender-motivated torture, as well as the international atrocity crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The Global Justice Center’s full submission highlights a number of concerns over Iraq’s criminal laws as violations of Iraq’s obligations under the treaty bodies to which it is a party – including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and the Geneva Conventions.

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Reproducing Impunity: Gendering the Draft Convention on Crimes against Humanity

The Draft Convention on Crimes against Humanity offers an opportunity to improve accountability for grave violations of international law; however in its current form, it continues to limit justice for sexual and gender-based violence.

The International Law Commission (“ILC”) undertook the task of compiling a Draft Convention on Crimes against Humanity in 2014. In the ILC’s first draft, it replicated the definition of crimes against humanity verbatim from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (“Rome Statute”)[1] for the sake of expediency, sparking unprecedented engagement from gender groups and experts to reform the provisions. As a result, during the final cycle of the ILC drafting process, 20 of the 33 states that submitted comments and a cohort of 23 UN experts called for the removal of an outdated definition of gender that failed to recognize a basis for persecution and limited justice and accountability for such crimes.

Removing the gender definition was a crucial step towards recognizing that it is not enough to merely replicate existing language without reckoning with legal developments and the gendered dimensions of mass atrocity crimes. However, the call did not go far enough to address the draft treaty’s inadequacies on sexual and gender-based violence, including restrictive definitions of torture, enslavement, and other sexual and gender-based acts “of comparable gravity” that constitute crimes against humanity. This factsheet will focus on one such crime under the treaty—forced pregnancy.

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Iraq: Submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

I. Introduction

1. In advance of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s (Committee) forthcoming review of Iraq, it is critical that the Committee pay particular attention to the need for fundamental reform of Iraq’s criminal legal system in order to achieve justice for Daesh’s victims, and more broadly for the women and girls of Iraq. As currently codified, Iraq’s criminal laws do not punish the most egregious aspects of Daesh’s sexual and gender-based violence. If prosecuted under these laws, basic features of Daesh’s crimes will go unpunished, such as rape with objects, forced marriage, and gender-motivated torture, as well as the international atrocity crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

Download the Full Submission

Myanmar might finally be held accountable for genocide, but the court case must recognise sexual violence

Excerpt ofThe Conversation US article that cites GJC's "That's Illegal" podcast and a speechby President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Myanmar might finally be held accountable, but defending the Rohingya from genocide shouldn’t just be left to the global Islamic community. They need to be joined by countries with an interest in reducing the sexual and gender based violence at the core of the Tatmadaw’s genocidal campaign.

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Failure to Notice or Notable Failure?: Challenges to Instilling a Gender-Sensitive Approach to International Law

October 11 2019 3:00pm until 4:45pm ET

The discussion will bring together international law, human rights and women’s rights experts who will draw upon their experiences to discuss the need for a gendered approach to international law. Panelists will consider the following questions: How can international law better deliver on gender justice? What does a gender analysis add to our understanding of these frameworks? Are national courts better equipped to provide true accountability?

In Which Trump Reminded the Global Community How Hateful He Really Is

Excerpt ofMs. Magazine op-ed by GJC Program Coordinator Merrite Johnson.

Here’s a quick recap of Tuesday’s address: Trump wants to empower American citizens, but only if those citizens are Trump voters. He believes in free speech, but only for himself and the white supremacist ilk he’s emboldened. He thinks women ought to have rights, but not their right to bodily autonomy. He believes in religious liberty, as long as it’s not for Muslims. He thinks every child “is a sacred gift from God,” unless that child was born outside the United States, in which case he’ll condemn them to die in federal custody.

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Read Akila Radhakrishnan's Speech at UNGA74 Side Event on the Rohingya Crisis

"A Pathway to a Sustainable Solution to the Rohingya Crisis"
Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations

Text of Prepared Remarks

Thank you Simon. And thank you Minister Momen, Minister Tambadou for your leadership. It’s an honor to participate in this event with you both. As Simon mentioned, I am the President of the Global Justice Center, an international human rights organization dedicated to advancing gender equality through the rule of law. We combine legal analysis with strategic advocacy to ensure equal protection of the law for women and girls.

My organization has worked in Burma since 2005, largely on issues of justice and accountability, including for military-perpetrated sexual violence against ethnic women. As a result, we are all too familiar with the place we find ourselves in today: seeking to find ways to end to conflict and restore peace, break the cycle of impunity for horrific crimes perpetrated by the military against an ethnic minority, and a find path forward to true democratic transition in Burma.

Beijing+25: Push Back Against the Pushback on Women’s Rights

By Maryna Tkachenko

Next year, the international community will mark the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women. Back in 1995, the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action was celebrated as a promising commitment to gender equality, development, and peace. As Hillary Clinton declared that “human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all,” the world witnessed a turning point for the global agenda on the advancement of women. A quarter of a century later, the fight to empower all women and girls and achieve gender parity is far from over. In the midst of growing backlash against women’s equality, shaping the Beijing+25 agenda must be a priority.

Leading up to the Beijing+25 conferences in 2020—which will be hosted in Mexico City and Paris—we must focus on the key issues surrounding women’s rights. Access to sexual and reproductive health rights around the world must be at forefront of the conversation,  in addition to fighting the persistence of gender discrimination, sexual violence, and oppression. Next year’s agenda cannot ignore the Global Gag Rule, abortion services for women and girls raped in war, and women’s right to be free from gender-based violence and degrading treatment. None of this can be done without implementing a feminist approach to humanitarian aid.

Response to Proposed United States Strategy on Women, Peace and Security

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE— June 13, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY] - This week, the Trump Administration released the United States government’s latest strategy on women, peace and security (“WPS”).  While it contains lofty goals to advance women’s equality and political participation, these objectives are directly undermined by current US policies.

“The Trump Administration’s stated commitment to advancing women’s equality through the WPS strategy is absurd,” says Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan. “In fact, this administration is actively harming women and girls around the world by expanding the Global Gag Rule, blocking language on access to life-saving healthcare services for war rape victims at the UN Security Council, and impeding international efforts at accountability for gender-based violence through its threats against the International Criminal Court. Until these policies, and others, change, this WPS strategy is not even worth the paper it’s printed on.”

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:

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.

Michelle Bachelet: A Beacon of Hope for Gender Parity in Conflict Resolution and Human Rights Development

By Sofia Garcia

“Wherever there is conflict, women must be part of the solution,” said Michelle Bachelet in 2012 as the head of UN Women. As of this September, she now holds the highest office in the human rights sphere as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, working to protect and promote human rights on an international level. The need for women in positions of power, particularly in peacemaking, conflict resolution, and human rights protection, is no less imperative now than it was six years ago in 2012. Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile, human rights advocate, torture survivor, and supporter of gender equality, is a testament to the positive impact that women have when given the opportunity to have a seat at the table.

Throughout her tenure as president of Chile, she continuously advocated for marginalized communities. During her first presidential term, she promulgated legislation that resulted in the creation of the National Institute for Human Rights in Chile, a decision that was ahead of its time in Latin America in 2009. In 2010, she inaugurated a Memory Museum in order to commemorate the victims of Augusto Pinochet’s murderous regime. These decisions highlight Bachelet’s commitment to recognizing historical tragedies without erasing them, and using history as a lesson and opportunity to memorialize the victims of atrocity.          When women like Michelle Bachelet hold positions of power, they are able to advocate for marginalized communities and give a voice to those that have been systematically silenced.

I Won’t Stop Fighting for Title X—Because it Transformed My Mother’s Life

GJC Grants and Development Manager Danielle Stouck published an op-ed in Ms. about the impact of Title X funding on young women's reproductive health and rights.

My mother can recall in vivid detail the day she went with her friends to buy birth control in 1970. She planned the excursion meticulously: Her high school nurse wrote notes excusing her and her friends from class that day, and she secretly borrowed the family car while her parents were out of town. Soon, they were on the road to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Newark, New Jersey.

Before her trip, pregnancy was, in my mother’s words, her “greatest fear.” The stigma associated with teenage pregnancy was suffocating. Roe v. Wade was still a few years away. Two of her closest friends had become pregnant, but New Jersey laws strictly prohibited abortion.

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