Our new Development Manager, Benil Mostafa, reflected on putting together our 2021 highlights during her first few months at GJC. You can view our 2021 Annual Report here.
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence: A Threat to Women's Rights and Gender Equality
Sexual and gender-based violence against women is rooted in systematic and systemic discrimination of women’s human rights. It is a direct consequence of gross violations of women’s rights and these violations are further exacerbated during times of armed conflict. This erosion, violation of women’s rights and, gender inequality are a clear precursor of conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence as mass atrocity crimes: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. While key landmark normative benchmarks have been accomplished over the decades to equip international law to promote women’s rights and gender justice, the prevalence of conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence calls for a recalibration of gender-power dynamics and an elimination of the impunity gap for these heinous crimes. It is time to join forces and advocate for leadership that has the will to move from commitments and declarations to real action towards gender justice. A gender justice framework rooted in a feminist and human-rights-based prevention approach.
The Center for International Human Rights in partnership with the Department of Law at the Free University of Berlin is pleased to present the fifth event in our Transatlantic Forum series, featuring...
Speaker: Jelena Pia-Comella, Adjunct Lecturer, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Discussant: Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center
2021-2026 Strategic Framework: Gender Shapes Our Response to Violence
Our 2021-2026 Strategic Plan, launched in November of 2021, outlines three central goals for the organization. One of these centers on our work to ensure that the global fight against sexual and gender-based violence targets the root causes of violence, such as structural gender inequality.
To learn more about our vision for a gender-equal future that protects abortion and other rights, check out our Strategic Plan.
Submission to UK International Development Committee — Gender and Mass Atrocities
The following responds specifically to the topic: How the UK Government’s approach to atrocity prevention interacts with other government policies and areas of work, such as the FCDO’s approach to conflict prevention, the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative
Gender inequality is itself a root cause of mass violence and also increases its harm on disadvantaged groups, including women and gender minorities. As such, prevention that incorporates a gender lens has routinely been found to be more effective at adequately responding to situations of mass atrocities and creating lasting peace. Prevention models must actively dismantle structural inequality through equitable representation in their programming, targeted efforts to prevent and suppress sexual and gender-based violence (“SGBV”), and include gender sensitivity in all stages of their responses. Despite the clear connection between successful atrocity prevention and gender integration, there are significant gaps in how States conceptualize and implement atrocity prevention. The failure to reckon with gendered experiences in prevention is evidenced by limited inclusion of gender indicia, or inclusion of overly simplified gender-related indicia, in early warning systems and risk assessments.
This submission outlines the need for UK leadership on gendering atrocity prevention and core principles to guide that leadership. First, it provides an overview of how gender informs the commission, planning, and harm of mass atrocity crimes, thus necessitating a gendered response. Second, it demonstrates how the inadequate accountability mechanisms, particularly gender gaps, feed the shortcomings of prevention frameworks. Third, the submission maps key international legal standards which must guide the UK’s prevention efforts and identify concrete measures for the integration of gender in atrocity prevention. Fourth, it assesses the opportunities and challenges in the UK’s current policies on atrocity prevention and their implementation. Finally, it provides recommendations on how the UK can improve its policies and practice with regard to atrocity prevention.
Ending Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment in Global Health
The 16 Days of Activism, 25 November to 10 December, mark the global campaign for the prevention and elimination of Gender Based Violence. During the 16 Days of Activism 2021, we the undersigned organizations, wish to express our deep concern at the sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (SEAH) of women and girls by WHO staff during the tenth Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We stand with survivors of SEAH and whistleblowers in their pursuit of justice and the truth, and we call on WHO to act now to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls.
Power imbalances and root causes
As diverse organizations working for the rights of women and girls in global health, we are appalled at the reports of SEAH by United Nations’ employees and international aid workers, including WHO, outlined in the Independent Commission reportof 28 September 2021. The Commission uncovered 83 alleged perpetrators, 21 of whom were WHO employees. The allegations included 9 rapes and countless demands for sex for jobs. Women and girls as young as 13 years old became pregnant, had miscarriages and abortions as a result of rape and sexual exploitation, and a reported 22 children were born. It is shameful and completely unacceptable that male staff of UN and aid agencies have caused such deep harm and blighted the lives of women and girls whose health they were paid to protect. This case in DRC is one in a long series of such cases and almost certainly the tip of the iceberg within the health sector.
Adjudicating Gender-Based Persecution At The ICC & Beyond: A Monumental Step And The Challenges That Lie Ahead
Historically speaking, gender has not been viewed as a relevant category of persecution in international criminal law, whereas victimisation on the basis of race, religion, politics, nationality and ethnicity has long been considered relevant. This was also the case with persecution, a fundamental crime against humanity. In the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), however, ‘gender’ was included among the list of relevant grounds. This was a monumental step forward for the recognition of the plethora of ways in which women and men are targeted in the context of widespread or systematic attacks against civilian populations.
Despite this, until late 2019, no suspect had been charged for persecution based on gender but rather on other grounds only. What are the main causes of this significant lacuna and how are we to overcome challenges in the future to ensure adequate recognition of these crimes, their successful prosecution and a victim-sensitive approach to the collection of evidence?
No Systemic Change Without Legal Change: Feminist Engagements With International Law.
There is no systemic change without legal change. The law governs our social relations and without changes in legal frameworks, the rights we fight for as activists are not translated into sustainable polities. Considering ongoing transnational challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the global pushback against human rights, and the climate emergency, the world critically needs a responsive international legal system. This event aims at understanding what international law could and should look like in the future from a feminist perspective.
CFFP and the Global Justice Center discussed these issues with Akila Radhakrishnan, the President of the Global Justice Center, Christine Chinkin, international law professor and Founding Director of the Centre of Women Peace & Security at the London School of Economics, and Beth Van Schaack, formerly Deputy to the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Office of Global Criminal Justice, U.S. Department of State; international criminal lawyer and professor at Stanford Law School. The discussion was moderated by Kristina Lunz, Executive Director of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy.
Myanmar’s Coup Is Devastating for Women
Excerpt of Foreign Policy op-ed by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan and GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.
The Myanmar military’s forceful takeover of the civilian government on Feb. 1, and its deadly crackdown on peaceful protesters who have marched in the streets ever since, are a dangerous setback for democracy and the rule of law in the country. But they’re especially devastating for women.
The coup, which ousted State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, not only threatens to reverse the progress made over the past decade to ensure that women in Myanmar have more opportunities, power, and influence in society but also places an unaccountable military with a history of gender-based violence in control of every aspect of government. Beyond the direct threat this poses to women’s physical safety, this rule—if left unchecked—will reinvigorate Myanmar’s long history of patriarchal oppression.
The Role of Women in Peace and Security Agenda: UNSCR 1325
The landmark Security Council Resolution 1325 underlines the unequal impact of armed conflicts and violence on women and girls while stressing their crucial role in building long-lasting peace. The resolution calls on Member States and civil society organizations to strengthen collaboration in increasing women`s meaningful participation in conflict prevention. UNSCR 1325 also stresses that gender mainstreaming of the peacekeeping operations is required to address particular needs of women and girls.
Voices of women are essential to reveal violence against women and girls during the times of conflicts. The current pandemic is expected to create additional profound challenges as the violence against women is reported to increase throughout this global crisis which makes women`s participation in peace building even more difficult due to the marginalization. According to World Bank and United Nations` joint research, increasing gender inequality will eventually lead to more conflict.1 As the recent Report of the Secretary-General on “Women and Peace and Security” underlines, “the combination of vibrant social movements, fragile peace agreements and a global pandemic is a wake-up call to build more equal and inclusive societies”.
JWF organizes this virtual panel to create a platform for the experts to inform our global audience of women`s rights activists on the UNSCR 1325, the means of increasing women’s leadership in conflict zones and peace building mechanisms, women’s role for facilitating the pillars of Responsibility to Protect, and discuss several country-case studies where women created a long-lasting.
- Cemre Ulker, The Journalists and Writers Foundation, UN Representative
- Esra Aydin, Journalists and Writers Foundation, Communications Director
- Savita Pawnday, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Deputy Executive Director
- Mavic CabreraBalleza, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, Chief Executive Officer
- Grant Shubin, Global Justice Center, Legal Director
Community Letter to President and Vice President on Global Gender Equality
Dear Mr. President and Madam Vice President, We, the undersigned organizations, care deeply about advancing gender equity and equality around the world and are writing to express our appreciation for the steps your administration has taken in your first 50 days to signal the United States’ renewed leadership on this issue. In particular, we are pleased to see early action on announcing the co-chairs of the new White House Gender Policy Council and were excited to see its official establishment by Executive Order on International Women’s Day. We also applaud the U.S. decision to re-engage immediately with the UN Human Rights Council and to seek a seat on the Council at the first opportunity, as well as the announcement that Vice President Harris will provide remarks during the UN Commission on the Status of Women next week.
Advancing gender equity and equality for all women and girls, as well as those in the LGBTQI+ community and individuals with disabilities, is first and foremost a matter of human rights and should be a goal in and of itself. It is also a necessary precondition for achieving key U.S. foreign policy objectives. We urge your Administration to ensure gender equity and equality are key tenets of U.S. foreign policy and assistance efforts through urgently taking the below critical actions:
- Announce unprecedented strong support in your first budget proposal to Congress with robust funding for gender equity and equality programs around the world, including significantly increasing funds to directly support women’s and LGBTQIA+ rights organizations;
- Announce your plan to appoint a Senior Gender Coordinator to the National Security Council to ensure that gender equity and equality issues are addressed at our nation’s most critical foreign policy making table; and,
- Announce your intention to appoint a foreign policy task force and staff lead for the new White House Gender Policy Council to ensure that the power of your office is brought to bear on gender issues everywhere, not just within the United States.
Panel Discussion: Preventing Atrocities with a WPS Perspective: A Myanmar Case Study
On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), as well as the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on R2P analyzed where issues related to gender and R2P overlap, from identifying risk factors for atrocity crimes to the prevention and response to such crimes.
As highlighted in the report, gender permeates genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in many ways. The case of Myanmar highlights the value of closely examining the gendered dimensions of a particular situation. As this year’s R2P report reflects, the international community must do more to ensure a holistic, consistent, and gender-inclusive approach to atrocity prevention and response.
This webinar was co-hosted by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the Global Justice Center and featured remarks from:
- Karen Smith, UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect
- Savita Pawnday, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
- Akila Radhakrishnan, Global Justice Center
- Moon Nay Li, Kachin Women’s Association
- Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum, Cardozo School of Law
Stop the Execution of Lisa Montgomery
Dear President Trump,
As over 800 organizations, scholars, individuals, law clinics, and survivors who are dedicated to ending all forms of violence against women, we are painfully aware of the victimization histories of most incarcerated women. Studies consistently show that up to 95% of incarcerated women have been victims of physical or sexual abuse. Lisa Montgomery’s story is a shocking example of what the research only begins to describe. Lisa suffered a life-time of horrific abuses, was consistently failed by people and systems that should have helped her, and became severely mentally ill by the time she committed her crime. Lisa committed her terrible crime – the seriousness of which we do not minimize – in the wake of a lifetime of victimization and mental illness. We urge you to have mercy and to commute her death sentence to life without the possibility of parole.
Lisa Montgomery was born with permanent brain damage as a result of her mother’s alcohol intake during pregnancy. Sexually abused by her stepfather for the first time at eleven years old, Lisa was repeatedly raped for years. Lisa’s mother beat her children brutally and emotionally tortured them, once killing the family dog in front of them. Lisa’s mother also trafficked Lisa to men for sex beginning when Lisa was in her early teens. Lisa developed dissociative disorder and complex posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of the repeated anal, oral, and vaginal rapes she suffered by the men to whom her mother trafficked her. Lisa told people about her abuse, but no one intervened. School administrators knew that Lisa came to school dirty, in tattered clothes, but failed to investigate or report. At age eighteen, Lisa, at her mother’s behest, married her stepbrother, who also raped and beat her. She had four children, then was sterilized against her will—another form of violence. Her mental health continued to spiral downwards. When her ex-husband/stepbrother filed for custody of two of her children and said he would reveal her sterilization to her new husband (who believed her to be pregnant), Lisa’s history of victimization, trauma, and mental illness tipped over the edge. Threatened with the loss of the children she deeply loved, Lisa committed a horrific crime.
Factsheet — Reproducing Patriarchy: How the Trump Administration has Undermined Women’s Access to Reproductive Health Care
For an in-depth analysis of the new Title X regulations (Final Rule, Domestic Gag Rule, or Domestic Gag), the impact on clinics’ participation in Title X and patients’ access to healthcare, domestic litigation challenging the restrictions, and how the Domestic Gag Rule violates the United States’ international human rights legal obligations, see the Global Justice Center and Leitner Center’s full report.
The Domestic Gag Rule is part of a broader pattern aimed at restricting access and denying women their ability to exercise their fundamental human rights
For the last four years the Trump administration has engaged in a systematic effort to undermine reproductive choice and bodily autonomy. Internationally, the Trump administration has attempted to undermine international law and institutions that protect sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and has cut funding for organizations that promote reproductive rights and services. President Trump reinstated and expanded the Global Gag Rule, limiting funding for foreign non-governmental organizations that provide abortion services as a method of family planning and restricting a wide variety of speech about abortion services, research, and advocacy, with well-documented detrimental impacts on sexual and reproductive health, HIV and AIDS services, and maternal mortality.
UN Security Council Resolution on Gender Equality Fails After Major Countries Abstain
NEW YORK — A United Nations Security Council resolution on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) failed to pass today after 10 countries abstained from the vote because the resolution failed to advance the agenda. The resolution effort was led by Russia, the Security Council president during the month of October.
The countries abstained after the resolution fell below agreed language on human rights, the role of civil society, and women’s participation in peace processes.
Adopted 20 years ago with Resolution 1325, WPS is an agenda that addresses the unique and disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls.
Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:
“Every country who withheld its vote for this unnecessary and dangerous resolution should be applauded. The Women, Peace and Security agenda is anchored in human rights and this resolution could have turned back the clock on 20 years of progress.
“Women in conflict-affected countries are suffering catastrophic impacts due to COVID-19. Any attack on this critical tool for advancing women’s health and rights is dangerous and we’re glad to see a diverse group of nations stand up for the agenda and its bold commitments to gender equality.”
Beyond the Pandemic: Opening the Doors to Meaningful Participation
The United Nations Department on Political and Peacebuilding Affairs is hosting the virtual event, “Beyond the Pandemic: Opening the Doors to Women’s Meaningful Participation”, on Wednesday, 28 October, at 10:00 AM (NY Time). The event celebrates the 20-year anniversary of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security with the participation of the following speakers in an interactive dialogue:
Ms. Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA)
Ms. Jeanine Plasschaert, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)
Ms. Kaavya Asoka, Executive Director of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security
Ms. Huda Ali, Feminist Peace Activist and Member of MANSAM, a Sudanese coalition of Women Civic and Political Organizations
Ms. Erika Brockmann, former member of the Bolivian national parliament (1997-2005) and currently a master trainer for the National Democratic Institute
Facilitation will be conducted by Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center.
U.S. signs international anti-abortion declaration
Excerpt of UPI article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.
The Global Justice Center lambasted the Trump administration Thursday, saying despite its rhetoric it has never put the health of women first.
"This administration has consistently [put] both women's bodies, here at home and abroad, last," Akila Radhakrishnan, president of Global Justice Center, said in a statement.
"Just because these regressive governments keep asserting that abortion is not a human right, doesn't make it true; the international human rights framework is clear on this issue," Radhakrishnan said. "There is a reason why none of the U.S.' traditional allies, nor countries with strong records on human rights, joined this declaration -- if flies in the face of decades of hard-fought victories for the rights for women."
US Supreme Court: death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spurs battle for civil rights
Excerpt of International Bar Association article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.
Akila Radhakrishnan is President of the Global Justice Center, which develops legal strategies to establish and protect human rights and gender equity. Although she sees the ‘deep misogyny’ of the backlash against abortion as the entry point, she says, ‘in many cases, abortion has been a test case of how far you can take a right down. Through the abortion pushback, a model has been created for dismantling other fundamental rights.’
Radhakrishnan notes Justice Ginsburg was ‘a stalwart on a range of civil rights issues that are on the table right now’. Without her, and with those abortion test cases, alongside cases on LGBTQI+ rights and voting rights, currently working their way up to a potentially conservative-skewed Supreme Court, Radhakrishnan is deeply concerned.
Inequality before the law
Excerpt of International Bar Association article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.
In many jurisdictions, the legal definition of rape doesn’t meet international human rights standards. In late 2018, only eight European jurisdictions had consent-based definitions, according to Amnesty International. In Myanmar, the legal definition of rape is a colonial legacy dating back to the 1861 penal code. Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center, asks ‘why, in 2020, are we clinging to the standards of 1861?’
Radhakrishnan asks us to look to existing legal frameworks promoting gender equality for solutions. For example, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women is a two-part framework that bars discrimination but also requires states to pursue measures towards substantive equality.
Genocide: China’s reported persecution of Uighurs exposes states’ legal obligations under international conventions
Excerpt of International Bar Association article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.
For now, the United States government has imposed sanctions on state officials in China and US companies doing business with China, and other countries have been urged to act.
The legal obligations on states to intervene are determined in part by their capacity to influence the perpetrators, notes Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center. She asks, ‘are sanctions a full utilisation of the US’ capacity to intervene?’
Further, Radhakrishnan says ‘states are claiming they can’t act until something is definitely found to be a genocide, but that requires a level of evidence and information that surpasses where legal obligations to act kick in’.
Myanmar’s Protection Bill falls Short of Addressing Violence against Women
Excerpt of Inter Press Service article that quotes GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.
A legislation that aims to protect women against violence in Myanmar, while long overdue, is raising concern among human rights advocates about its inadequate definition of rape, vague definition for “consent”, and anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rhetoric.
Myanmar is soon to see the latest version of its Prevention of and Protection from Violence Against Women (PoVAW) introduced in parliament. But the Global Justice Centre (GJC), an international human rights and humanitarian law organisation focusing on advancing gender equality, has pointed out that the legislation falls short of addressing violence against women.
According to GJC, the language used in the law borrows from Myanmar’s 1861 Penal Code and thus perpetuates antiquated understandings of rape, such as; considering rape as violence committed only by men, the definition of “rape” constituting only of vaginal penetration, and no acknowledgement of marital rape.
“The Myanmar government has long shown a lack of commitment to breaking the cycle of impunity for widespread sexual and gender-based violence, a problem that is exacerbated by broader structural barriers with respect to Myanmar’s military justice system, and a lack of robust domestic options for accountability,” the GJC analysis has claimed.