Gender and Violence in Focus: A Background for Gender Justice in Reparations

Authored by: Margaret Urban Walker

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Political Transitions, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Transitional Justice
Country: Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia
Region: Europe and Eurasia, Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2009
Citation: Walker, Margaret Urban. "Gender and Violence in Focus: A Background for Gender Justice in Reparations." In The Gender of Reparations: Unsettling Sexual Hierarchies While Redressing Human Rights Violations, edited by Ruth Rubio-Marin, 18-60. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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Executive Summary

The ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and the International Criminal Court (ICC) have put sexual violence against women in contexts of conflict squarely on the map of international criminal law in the past decade. Acts of sexual violence can now be charged as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and grave breaches of humanitarian standards. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda produced significant coverage of mass rapes that accompanied mass killings. The 1998 Akayesu judgment of the ICTR made the historically unprecedented connection between rape and genocide, and the statute and indictments of the ICTR incorporate rape as a crime against humanity. Yet a 2004 Human Rights Watch report reveals that neither the ICTR, local courts, nor the recently launched traditional gacaca hearings are dealing adequately with sexual violence. The indictment and conviction of Bosnian Serb soldiers for sexual assaults and enslavement of women in Foca at the ICTY in 2001 was seen as a historic moment for the recognition of specifically sexual violence against women in the context of armed conflict. Even so, tribunal judges lamented the difficulty of getting sexual violence against women on the agenda, and into the indictments, of the tribunal. In other recent conflicts on the African continent, widespread abduction, rape, sexual enslavement, and captivity of young women has been publicized, but it is unclear how, whether, and where this violence will be addressed.