GJC in the News

Progress, Resistance, and Silence on Gender Justice in the Draft Crimes Against Humanity Treaty

Excerpt of Just Security op-ed authored by GJC Legal Advisor Tess Graham.

In April, States took a significant step toward negotiating a specific treaty on crimes against humanity (CAH) after years of delay and procedural wrangling. If adopted, the proposed draft articles could close gaps in the architecture of international criminal and human rights law and provide a critical opportunity to advance gender justice – or regress to outdated ideas about  gender. The unprecedented week-long discussion at the United Nations offered a glimpse at the opportunities a treaty might hold to advance gender justice.

Across the five day “resumed session” of the U.N. General Assembly’s legal committee the theme of gender arose repeatedly, with many States indicating support for progressive provisions on gender-related elements of the draft articles. Others indicated a desire to revert to obsolete gender provisions, setting up potential battles over key issues. Contentious questions included whether to define “gender” within the treaty (or leave it undefined, like other treaty terms including “race” and “religion”); definitions of sexual and reproductive violations; and slavery-related crimes. States also missed some opportunities to engage on pivotal gender issues, but diplomats and civil society leaders will have additional openings to raise these issues over the coming months.

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