Justice on Whose Terms? A Critique of International Criminal Justice Responses to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence


St. Germain, Tonia, and Susan Dewey. 2013. “Justice on Whose Terms? A Critique of International Criminal Justice Responses to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence.” Women’s Studies International Forum 37 (March): 36–45. 

Authors: Tonia St. Germain, Susan Dewey


This article argues that the international criminal justice system fails to sufficiently address conflict-related sexual violence in two critical ways: [1] by advocating a pro-prosecution, “end impunity” approach (defined as holding perpetrators accountable through criminal, civil, administrative or disciplinary proceedings) which applies the prevailing Euro-American model of justice designed to prosecute one man for the rape of one woman to post-conflict zones where widespread sexual violence occurred, and [2] by identifying conflict and post-conflict zones as both discursive and practical sites of pathology that require intervention by elites who strongly identify with a Euro-American liberal individualistic vision of justice. We argue that the international community can no longer conveniently refuse to address the inequalities characterizing the international criminal justice system, in which a tiny minority of self-congratulatory elites uses the noble principles of human rights and justice to advance an agenda that works in their own best interests. To explore possible alternatives to a prosecution-centered approach to conflict-related sexual violence, we employ two African case study examples of community-led gender justice initiatives that have successfully shifted legal discourse while simultaneously transforming wider cultural frameworks.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, International Law, International Criminal Law, Justice, Post-Conflict, Rights, Sexual Violence, SV against Women, Violence

Year: 2013

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