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.

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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.

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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.

Panelists:

  • 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

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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:

  1. 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;
  2. 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,
  3. 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.

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Panel Discussion: Preventing Atrocities with a WPS Perspective: A Myanmar Case Study

Description:

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

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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.

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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.

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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

Description:

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."

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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Submission to the Group of Independent Experts: The Need to Center Gender in the Review of the International Criminal Court and Rome Statute System

Introduction

Gender permeates the planning, commission, and resolution of criminal acts within the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction. It is woven into perpetrators’ planning and commission of crimes, as well as victims’ (individual and collective) experience and recovery of acts committed against them. Accordingly, gender must be a central criterion in the group of independent experts’ review of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “the Court”) and the Rome Statute system. Laudably, the Rome Statute was among the first international treaties to extensively address sexual and gender-based violence. Moreover, from the beginning of her term ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has made it a priority to close the gender justice gap, as evidenced by her Policy Paper on Sexual and GenderBased Crimes, the first ever such policy for an international court or tribunal. Despite these foundational pillars and priorities, in the 18 years of the Court’s operation there has only been one standing conviction on sexual violence. This submission highlights avenues for improving gender justice at varying stages of a case. It identifies opportunities for progress regarding staffing and prosecutorial strategies on case selection, prioritization, and investigation that hinder access to justice in these cases. Until gender is mainstreamed throughout all stages of ICC cases, the Court will be limited in its capacity to deliver justice.

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UN Secretary-General Releases Report on Impact of COVID-19 on Women

NEW YORK – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres released a report today on the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls.

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

“UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has taken important leadership to highlight the gendered impact of COVID-19, first with his call to prevent violence against women, and today with his policy brief on the impact of Covid-19 on women and girls. All crises have a gendered impact, and the secretary-general’s leadership in helping to shed light on this issue is important. We now look to states to take meaningful efforts to address these gendered impacts and make them the center of all responses. This should include, first and foremost, the equal representation of women in the decision making and planning of responses.

"We have seen around the world the failure of states to adequately take human and women’s rights into account. For example, policymakers in the United States are using COIVD-19 measures as a pretext to curb access to sexual and reproductive rights, in particular abortion. The secretary-general’s brief importantly recognizes that the provision of such services is central to women’s health and rights. A human and women’s rights informed approach should be leading to states working to make key services like abortion, more accessible, not less.

"As COVID-19 continues to lay bare the inequalities in our society, states must ensure that their responses take gendered impacts into account."

UN secretary-general says violence against women during coronavirus quarantine must stop

Excerpt of CNN articles that features GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, said the call "recognizes how violence and crisis situations exacerbate existing inequalities in society and emphasize the need to center those most impacted in responses."

"However, to date, we have consistently seen that Covid-19 responses have inadequately taken women’s rights and human rights into account. And there’s been a lack of inclusivity in the groups responsible for crisis response and decision-making," she said.

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UN Secretary-General Delivers Address on Violence Against Women During COVID-19 Quarantine

NEW YORK – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres gave an address today on violence against women living under quarantine measures issued to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, had the following response:

“We applaud the Secretary-General for his important call today to end violence against women, which recognizes one of the key gendered impacts of crises situations such as COVID-19. 

“Like his call for a global ceasefire, today’s call recognizes how violence and crisis situations exacerbate existing inequalities in society and emphasize the need to center those most impacted in responses. However, to date, we have consistently seen that COVID-19 responses have inadequately taken women’s rights and human rights into account. And there’s been a lack of inclusivity in the groups responsible for crisis response and decision-making. 

“As the Secretary-General recognized, violence against women requires a multi-faceted response, including access to support services and shelters and judicial systems. We hope that states heed this important call and take immediate measures to ensure that measures are taken to prevent and respond to domestic violence, and ensure that all measures are grounded in human rights and involve an inclusive group of women in its design and decision-making.”

FY 21 Healthy Youth Sign on Letter

Dear Chairman Blunt, Ranking Member Murray, Chairwoman DeLauro, and Ranking Member Cole:

The undersigned 109 organizations, committed to supporting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people, request your support for fiscal year (FY) 2021 funding that helps to ensure the health of our nation’s youth. We urge you to protect the integrity of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) and increase support for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) school-based HIV and STI prevention efforts. We also encourage the elimination of the abstinence-only “sexual risk avoidance” competitive grant program.

Young people face barriers to accessing health information, education, and services, resulting in persistent inequity and health disparities. While a young person’s health and wellbeing is about more than just the absence of disease, or in the case of sexual health, the absence of HIV and other STIs, unintended pregnancy, or sexual violence, the adolescent data on these points alone, remain largely unchanged and alarming in recent years.

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