International Law

Seeking Gender Justice in Post-Conflict Transitions: Towards a Transformative Women's Human Right's Approach


Reilly, Niamh. 2007. "Seeking Gender Justice in Post-Conflict Transitions: Towards a Transformative Women's Human Right's Approach." International Journal of Law in Context 3 (2): 155-72.

Author: Niamh Reilly


This article critically examines the prospects for achieving a comprehensive vision of gender justice in post-conflict transitional contexts.  It is divided into three main sections. The first reviews the gendered limits of mainstream approaches to transitional justice and highlights gender biases in related dominant discourses, which shape how conflict, and transitions from conflict, are understood and enacted to the detriment of women.  The second focuses on the benefits and limitations of engendering wartime criminal justice with particular reference to the International Criminal Court.  The third considers the prospects for a more comprehensive approach to gender justice that shifts the emphasis from ‘women as victims’ of conflict to women as agents of transformation, through an examination of the significance of Security Council Resolution 1325.  Ultimately, the author argues that achieving gender justice in transitions is inextricably tied to wider bottom-up efforts by women’s movements to realize a comprehensive vision of women’s human rights within a framework of critically-interpreted, universal, indivisible human rights.

Keywords: post-conflict transition, transitional justice, gender biases


  • In her article, Reilly examines the extent to which feminists engage with international law in order to achieve their ends. She focuses on two instances of feminist engagement with international law in post-conflict situations; the first is the initiative to incorporate gender-sensitive provisions into the procedures of the International Criminal Court, and the second is the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325. She concludes that the incorporation of gender-based policies into post-conflict reconstruction is intrinsic to the successful realization of women’s rights worldwide.

  • As she assesses “the gendered limits of traditional approaches to transitional justice,” (7), Reilly explains that because of the changing nature of conflict (with more contemporary wars being internal and involving non-state actors than previously), gender has only recently come to the forefront of discussion surrounding conflict and reconstruction. She writes that political transitions provide unique potential for countries to incorporate gender into their legal and political systems, particularly through feminist engagement with international law.  In her sub-section “Contesting gender bias in dominant discourses,” Reilly writes that the innate gender inequalities in the public and private spheres are particularly apparent in times of transition. While women play critical roles in peace initiatives, they are oftentimes excluded from positions of political power thereafter.

  • The second section of Reilly’s paper focuses on violence against women in times of conflict and post-conflict. Crimes committed against women during wartime have only recently begun to receive international attention, as more women are routinely making efforts to mainstream gender into the ICC and dismantle entrenched gender biases. Sexual violence in wartime has largely been dismissed as an inevitable reality; however, women’s movements that emerged in the 1990s have mobilized around the issue and called attention to its importance. She highlights the need to “shift the focus from women as victims of war to women as agents of change in transitions” (23), using international law as a tool to facilitate this shift in roles.

  • In section three, entitled “Women’s participation and gender equality in transitions” (24), Reilly notes that transitions oftentimes open up a window of opportunity for improvements in gender justice. She writes that feminist peace-building entails efforts for gender equality in the domestic sphere, such as the treatment of economic inequalities, which disproportionately affect women. Reilly cites SCR 1325 as an example of the way in which international law can be used to aid women in their struggle for gender equality in times of post-conflict transition. Resolution 1325, which calls for “the increased representation of women at all decision-making levels” (28), marks an important step for the transnational women’s movement; however, its successful implementation remains minimal. Because women’s economic and social equally may be a necessary precursor to their equal political participation, the traditional culture of many states prevent the concrete realization of SCR 1325.

  • In her conclusion, Reilly recaps her assessment of feminist engagement with the ICC and the adoption of SCR 1325. She argues that the efforts to expose war crimes against women are part of a larger effort for gender equality on the global scale. The “gender biases”—a term that she uses to characterize the male-centric models of democracy that govern many states—prevent women from making their voices heard in the post-conflict reconstruction process. Moreover, these gender biases result in the disregard for social and economic inequalities, which disproportionately disadvantage women in conflict and post-conflict periods.

Topics: Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, International Law, International Criminal Law, Justice, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights, UN Security Council Resolutions on WPS, UNSCR 1325

Year: 2007

Gay Rights in Uganda: Seeking to Overturn Uganda's Anti-Sodomy Laws


Hollander, Michael. 2009. "Gay Rights in Uganda: Seeking to Overturn Uganda's Anti-Sodomy Laws." Virginia Journal of International Law 50: 219-66.

Author: Michael Hollander


Sections of the Ugandan Penal Code criminalizing sodomy were imposed during colonial rule, but have been fully integrated into Ugandan social norms and culture.  This article argues for a national and international framework that together might lead to the repeal of discriminatory legislation.  However, it cautions that changes to the law must be coupled with changes in the cultural, public, and religious perceptions of homosexuality which are deeply entrenched at this time.

This essay presents a comprehensive legal argument for overturning the anti-sodomy laws (as documented in Sections 145, 146, and 148 of the Uganda Penal Code Act) that have been adopted by the Ugandan government during the post-colonial era. Hollander uses “both a national constitutional framework and an international framework that includes treaties, other international agreements, and a developing international consensus that persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) individuals is a human rights violation” in presenting his argument.

Keywords: human rights, law

Topics: Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Governance, Constitutions, International Law, LGBTQ, Religion, Rights, Human Rights, Sexuality Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Uganda

Year: 2009

The Absence of Justice: Private Military Contractors, Sexual Assault, and the U.S. Government's Policy of Indifference


Snell, Angela. 2011. "The Absence of Justice: Private Military Contractors, Sexual Assault, and the U.S. Government's Policy of Indifference." University of Illinois Law Review, no. 3, 1125-64.

Author: Angela Snell


As the United States remains in Iraq and Afghanistan, stories of abuse by private military contractors (PMCs) have flooded the news. This Note focuses on an area of PMC crime that has garnered less public attention and censure: sexual crimes against civilians in non-war zones. Emphasizing the lack of legal recourse for victims of sexual crime by PMCs and the systematic failure of the United States to punish sexual crime perpetrated by its own PMCs, the author argues that the United States should be held liable for the sexual crimes that its contractors commit, including those that occur outside of war zones.

This note first explains the exponential growth in the United States' use of PMCs and highlights that governmental supervision of PMCs has not kept pace with the number of contractors that the United States employs. Noting that PMCs generally employ former members of the military, the author traces a culture of violence against women back to attitudes learned in the U.S. military, and then shows that PMCs are even more likely to be involved in crimes of sexual violence than U.S. soldiers.

The Note details and analyzes the possibility of responding to PMC sexual violence against civilians outside of war zones under U.S. military law, U.S. criminal law, criminal law where the crime occurs, International Human Rights Law, International Criminal Law, and the U.S. Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The author determines that these methods, as they stand now, are inadequate because of problems of limited jurisdiction, U.S. reluctance to prosecute contractors and willingness to protect U.S. nationals from prosecution abroad, requirements that violence be widespread or systematic before triggering international prosecution, and the absence of state liability for the actions of private individuals, unless the state condones the activities. The author calls for a three-fold solution: first, victims should file complaints against the United States in international courts, under the theory that the United States is liable for its contractors' acts, because it has condoned them by failing to punish them and even actively discouraging their prosecution; second, victims should sue individual perpetrators in the United States under the ATS, both to compensate victims and to deter contractors from future violence; third, and finally, the United States must act to close the jurisdictional gap that allows PMCs to escape prosecution by signing and supporting international treaties, developing its own stricter system of criminal liability for PMCs, and using contract mechanisms to enforce standards of conduct for PMCs.

Keywords: private security, sexual assault, accountability

Topics: International Law, International Criminal Law, International Human Rights, Justice, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Private Military & Security, Sexual Violence Regions: Africa, MENA, Americas, North America, Asia, Middle East, South Asia Countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, United States of America

Year: 2011

Calling the Ghosts: A Story About Rape, War and Women


© 2024 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at

Subscribe to RSS - International Law