Gender Violence or Violence Against Women? The Treatment of Forced Marriage in the Special Court for Sierra Leone


Slater, Rachel. 2012. “Gender Violence or Violence Against Women? The Treatment of Forced Marriage in the Special Court for Sierra Leone.” Melbourne Journal of International Law 13 (2):  732.

Author: Rachel Slater


The article considers the case for viewing forced marriage, a prevalent form of violence suffered by women during the Sierra Leone conflict, as a gender crime. The article begins with a brief examination of the Special Court for Sierra Leone trials, commonly known as the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council Trial, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council Appeal, the Revolutionary United Front Trial and the Charles Taylor Trial. Part IV then puts forward a conceptualisation of forced marriage as a gender crime and not purely violence suffered by women. It is argued that in order to fully reflect the nature of the harm suffered, the gender element of the violence must be foregrounded. This argument rejects calls for forced marriage to be viewed as enslavement or sexual slavery and emphasises the specific harm stemming from the label ‘wife’ as demonstrative of the force of socially assigned gender roles; these roles are integral to the crime rather than just forming the broader social context. This suggests that forced marriage as a gender crime should be seen as a stand-alone crime separate from other instances of forced marriage. In Part V and Part VI, it will be argued that the categorisation of forced marriage as a gender crime is a vital step towards the recognition of this type of gender violence as being within the scope of international law. Specifically, this article considers the characterisation of forced marriage under international criminal law in light of its interest to international refugee law, where similar violence might be raised as ‘persecution’ under the definition in art 1A(2) of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gender-Based Violence, International Law, International Criminal Law, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, War Crimes, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Sexual Violence, Sexual Slavery, SV against Women Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2012

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