International Law and Domestic Gender Justice, or Why Case Studies Matter

Authored by: Catherine O'Rourke

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: International Agreements, International Law, Political Transitions, Transitional Justice
Country: Chile
Region: Latin America and the Caribbean
Year: 2013
Citation: O'Rourke, Catherine. "International Law and Domestic Gender Justice, or Why Case Studies Matter." In Feminist Perspectives on Transitional Justice: From International and Criminal to Alternative Forms of Justice, edited by Martha Fineman and Estelle Zinsstag, 11–41. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Intersentia Publishing Ltd., 2013.

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Executive Summary

This chapter reflects on the relationship of feminist-informed developments in international criminal law (ICL) to the gender outcomes of domestic processes of transitional justice. The paper identifies a distinct critical-reflective turn in feminist scholarship in international criminal law, and offers a four-way typology of these more recent feminist critiques of ICL, namely: ICL as legally deficient; ICL as sexualizing and infantilizing women; ICL as silencing individual women and women’s movements more broadly; and feminist engagement with ICL as hegemonic and imperialist. The chapter notes the move in feminist ICL scholarship away from a concern with the impact of ICL norms on domestic cases of transition. The chapter then draws on the Chilean case in order to consider the impact of evolving international legal norms on the official recognition of harms experienced by women under the dictatorship. The chapter argues that attention to the impact of international legal norms on domestic instances of transition might go some way to re-grounding feminist critical-reflective scholarship of ICL, moving away from more abstract critiques at the international level, to applied critiques at the domestic level of gender and transitional justice. Moreover, attending to the domestic impact of international legal norms might provide grounds for greater optimism in the evaluation of the feminist-informed changes in ICL over the past decade and a half.