Research Handbook on Feminist Engagement with International Law
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Research Handbook on Feminist Engagement with International Law

Edited by Susan Harris Rimmer and Kate Ogg

For almost 30 years, scholars and advocates have been exploring the interaction and potential between the rights and well-being of women and the promise of international law. This collection posits that the next frontier for international law is increasing its relevance, beneficence and impact for women in the developing world, and to deal with a much wider range of issues through a feminist lens.
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Chapter 13: ‘Gender-just judging’ in international criminal courts: new directions for research

Rosemary Grey and Louise Chappell


Despite the increased attention to gender in instruments of international criminal law, significant gender problems persist in the practice of international criminal courts. One problem is that conviction rates for gender-based crimes continue to be lower than for other common wartime offences, with the result that the ‘end of impunity’ for gender-based crimes remains a long way off. Another is the impoverished concept of gender presented in trial narratives – even where prosecutors and judges purport to analyse ‘gender-based crimes’, they offer little analysis of the ways in which violence in times of war and ‘crisis’ is linked to underlying gender hierarchies and norms. It is increasingly acknowledged that more gender-sensitive adjudication can help address these persistent problems. However, the potential role of judges in this respect remains under-researched and poorly theorised, with most scholars and activists starting from the premise that the key to improving gender competency in the judiciary is to increase the number of women on the bench. Drawing on the broader literature on ‘gender justice’, this chapter sets out a more ambitious agenda for research on gender and judging in international criminal courts. It considers how judges (of either sex) can act as agents of ‘gender justice’ in these courts, and proposes a framework for assessing the extent of their contribution in this regard. To make this analytic framework concrete, the chapter uses illustrative examples of ‘gender-just judging’ from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and International Criminal Court (ICC). We hope that by developing concrete indicators of ‘gender-just judging’ in international criminal courts, the chapter will show that a commitment to gender justice is not necessarily inconsistent with a commitment to impartiality, and pave the way for future empirical research into the contribution of judges to ‘gender justice’ in international criminal courts.

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