Gender Crimes as War Crimes: Integrating Crimes against Women into International Criminal Law

By Copelon, Rhonda | McGill Law Journal, November 2000 | Go to article overview
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Gender Crimes as War Crimes: Integrating Crimes against Women into International Criminal Law


Copelon, Rhonda, McGill Law Journal


The author identifies the major goals and achievements in file area of recognizing women as full subjects of human rights and eliminating impunity for gender crimes, highlighting the role of non-governmental organizations ("NGO's"). Until file 1990s sexual violence in war was largely invisible, a point illustrated by examples of the "comfort women" in Japan during the 1930s and 1940s and file initial failure to prosecute rape and sexual violence in the ad hoc international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Due in a significant measure to the interventions by NGOs, the ad hoc international criminal tribunals have brought gender into mainstream international jurisprudence. For example, the Yugoslavia tribunal has devoted substantial resources to file prosecution of rape and explicitly recognized rape as torture, while file Rwanda tribunal has recognized rape as an act of genocide. Elsewhere, the Statute of the International Criminal Court is a landmark in codifying not only crimes of sexual and gender violence as part of the ICC's jurisdiction, but also in establishing procedures to ensure that these crimes and their victims are properly treated. Working towards this end file Women's Caucus for Gender Justice met with significant opposition. It persisted because of the imperative that sexual violence be seen as part of already recognized forms of violence, such as torture and genocide.

L'auteur fait etat des principaux objectifs et accomplissements dans le domaine de la reconnaissance des femmes comme titulaires a part entiere des droits internationaux de la personne et de l'elimination de l'impunite pour les crimes a caractere sexiste (gender crimes), en accordant une importance particuliere au role des organisations non-gouvernementales (ONG). Jusqu'aux annees 1990, la violence sexuelle lors des conflits armes restait largement invisible, par exemple dans le cas de la prostitution forcee imposee par les forces japonaises dans les annees 1930 et 1940 et dans celui des viols et de la violence sexuelle, initialement ignores par les tribunaux internationaux ad hoc pour le Rwanda et l'ex-Yougoslavie. Grace, en grande partie, aux efforts des ONG, ces tribunaux ont toutefois introduit ces questions dans la jurisprudence internationale. Par exemple, le Tribunal penal pour l'ex-Yougoslavie a reconnu le viol comme une forme de torture et consacre des ressources significatives a intenter des poursuites pour ce crime. Le Statut de la Cour penale internationale (CPI) constitue par ailleurs un point tournant, en ce qu'il codifie non seulement les crimes de nature sexuelle et les integre a la competence de la Cour, mais etablit egalement des procedures visant a ameliorer le traitement de ces crimes et de leurs victimes. Le caucus des femmes de la CPI a toutefois rencontre une forte opposition a la realisation de ces fins ; il persista toutefois dans ses demandes en raison de la necessite de voir la violence sexuelle etre reconnue comme partie integrante des formes de violence deja ctiminalisees, tels la torture et le genocide.

Introduction

I. The Traditional Approach: Past and Present

Il. Sexual Slavery: The "Comfort" Women

III. Rape and Genocide in Rwanda: Invisibility and Inclusion

IV. Engendering International Jurisprudence: The ICTY

V. The International Criminal Court: Codifying Gender Justice

Conclusion: Towards a Holistic Gender-Inclusive Approach

Introduction

Let me begin by saying that I am moved and honoured to participate in this conference along with so many committed scholars and agents of change--non-governmental and intergovernmental. It is also important that there are so many students here, as you are the ultimate repositories of memory, as well as the change agents of the next fifty years. Likewise, I feel very privileged to be engaged in the process of ending impunity for gender crimes along with students and attorneys-in-residence from other countries at the International Women's Human Rights Law Clinic ("IWHR"), which is part of CUNY's [City University of New York] clinical programs.

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