International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 20: International criminal courts
In the last two decades, international criminal courts – such as the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia or the International Criminal Court – have emerged as sites for holding individuals, including state leaders, responsible for large-scale violence and conflict. As arenas with substantial legal and political authority, international courts provide civil society actors, including feminists, with a venue to influence how accountability for conflict and the conditions necessary for peace are understood and addressed.Feminist activism and scholarship on international criminal courts have tended to pursue three main directions: raising the visibility of sexual violence against women as a component of war; expanding the range of gendered harms recognized and prosecuted; and exploring and pushing the limits of international criminal law as a mechanism for ensuring women’s inclusion in the post-conflict transition. The first two directions could be characterized as pursuing political and legal interventions based on visibility, primarily of women’s victimization. The efforts to raise the visibility of sexual violence crimes against women particularly were aimed at addressing the historical erasure of women’s lived experience of war and, by doing so, changing dominant accounts of armed conflict as something that exclusively impacts men, and male soldiers in particular.
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