War Crimes

A Gendered Imperative: Does Sexual Violence Attract UN Attention in Civil Wars?


Benson, Michelle, and Theodora-Ismene Gizelis. 2019. “A Gendered Imperative: Does Sexual Violence Attract UN Attention in Civil Wars?” Journal of Conflict Resolution 64 (1): 167-98.

Authors: Michelle Benson, Theodora-Ismene Gizelis


There is increasing awareness that sexual violence is distinct from other aspects of civilian victimization in civil wars. Few studies have examined the independent impact of such violence on responses to civil wars as compared to “traditional” forms of violence. This article explores whether reports of high levels of rape and sexual violence increase the probability of United Nations (UN) attention to conflicts and calls to action. In so doing, we combine original data on UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions with data on sexual violence in armed conflict and estimate the impact of sexual violence on UN attention to all civil wars from 1990 to 2009. We show that the effects of sexual violence on the number and level of UNSC resolutions are significant even when controlling for other important determinants of UN action. These findings have important implications for understanding how the UN has expanded its view on protecting civilians.


Keywords: war crimes, international organization, internal armed conflict, civil wars

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, International Organizations, Justice, War Crimes, Sexual Violence, UN Security Council Resolutions on WPS, Violence

Year: 2019

Gender and War: International and Transitional Justice Perspectives


Jurasz, Olga, and Solange Mouthaan. 2019. Gender and War: International and Transitional Justice Perspectives. Cambridge: Intersentia.

Authors: Solange Mouthaan, Olga Jurasz

Keywords: gender, war, transitional justice, international law, conflict


This book explores and challenges common assumptions about gender, conflict, and post-conflict situations. It critically examines the gendered aspects of international and transitional justice processes by subverting traditional understandings of how wars are waged, the power dynamics involved, and the experiences of victims.The book also highlights the gendered stereotypes that underpin the (mis)perceptions about gender and war in order to reveal the multi-dimensional nature of modern conflicts and their aftermaths.
Featuring contributions from academics in law, criminology, international relations, politics and psychology, as well as legal practitioners in the field, Gender and War offers a unique and multi-disciplinary insight into contemporary understandings of conflict and explores the potential for international and transitional justice processes to evolve in order to better acknowledge diverse and gendered experiences of modern conflicts.
This book provides the reader with international and interdisciplinary perspectives on issues of international law, conflict, gender and transitional justice. (Summary from Intersentia)
Introduction (p.1)
Part I. Women's Involvement in Armed Conflict
              How and Why Women Participate in Armed Conflict (p.9)
​              Female Perpetrators in the Fromer Yugoslav Republic and Rwanda (p. 41)
​              Female War Crime Perpetrators in Bosnia and Herzegovina (p. 65)
Part II. Men and Children's Experiences of Armed Conflict
​              Towards a Gender Analysis of Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys in Conflict (p. 93)
​              Children and Armed Conflict (p. 119)
Part III. Gendered Expereiences of International Criminal Justice
​              Gender, Enslavement and War Economies in Sierra Leone (p. 145)
​              Male Victims and Female Perpetrators of Sexual Violence in Conflict (p. 169)
​              Prosecuting Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes in the International Criminal Court (p. 209)
​              Reparations for Gendered Harms at the International Criminal Court (p. 235)
Part IV. Gendered Experiences of Transitional Justice
​              Children in Transitional Justice Processes (p. 259)
​              Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Kosovo (p. 285)
​              Staying the Course (p. 311)
Part V. Conclusions
​              Conclusions (p. 353)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Conflict, Economies, War Economies, Gender, Gender-Based Violence, International Law, Justice, Transitional Justice, War Crimes, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence, Female Perpetrators, SV against Men Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Yugoslavia (former)

Year: 2019

Skirts as Flags: Transitional Justice, Gender and Everyday Nationalism in Kosovo


Krasniqi, Vjollca, Ivor Sokolic, and Denisa Kostovicova. 2020. "Skirts as Flags: Transitional Justice, Gender and Everyday Nationalism in Kosovo." Nations and Nationalism 26 (2): 461-76.

Authors: Vjollca Krasniqi, Ivor Sokolic, Denisa Kostovicova

Keywords: art, gender, nationalism, transitional justice, Kosovo


"In this article, we bring the perspective of everyday nationalism to the feminist theorizing in the field of transitional justice and investigate gendered dimensions of post‐conflict nation building. Our aim is to understand possibilities for achieving gender‐just peace characterized by the transformation of gender relations, as well as their obstacles. Feminist scholarship has captured complex, contested, and ambiguous dynamics of shifting gender relations in conflict and post‐conflict settings in the everyday domain. Despite increasing understanding of women's agency and its limits, the entrenchment of dominant hierarchical norms at the intersection of gender and the nation remains puzzling. Everyday nationalism directs attention to mundane aspects of nationhood. It also offers a bottom–up perspective on top–down processes of “formal” nationalism and their interplay with everyday constructions of nationhood. The alignment between these bottom–up and top–down processes reveals how national ideologies are legitimized and hierarchical gender relations entrenched. We ask, does the public recognition of wartime sexual violence and women's suffering challenge the norms and habits of masculine nationhood and pave the way for a new start free of patriarchal hierarchies? Or does it entrench a gendered war “metanarrative” (Björkdahl & Mannergren Selimovic, 2015, p. 172) and with it, unequal gender relations? We study a public art installation about wartime sexual violence in Kosovo aimed at tackling the stigma and silence about wartime rape. The analysis is focused on how this artistic practice, as a symbol, discourse, and performance, as well as an intervention in the everyday domain, offers recognition of wartime sexual violence, and how this recognition responds to, or interacts with, existing gendered dynamics of nationhood. Drawing on Malešević (2013, p. 14), we argue that nationalism and nationhood transcend the public/private dichotomy by connecting institutions and organizations, such as public art installations, to everyday microinteractions. We show that the public endorsement of the art project and the acceptance of wartime sexual violence result in the recognition of the war crime but not the victim. Dynamics of everyday nationalism reinforce gender asymmetries and women's marginalization in a nation‐building process even while their suffering is being acknowledged publicly. Twenty years after the war in Kosovo ended, justice for ethnic Albanian women victims of sexual violence is still largely elusive. Their suffering has been sidelined both in international criminal prosecutions as well as in hybrid domestic war crime trials. The recent adoption by Kosovo's parliament of a reparations law for wartime sexual and gender‐based violence marks formal progress. But, its impact on actual redress for this wartime harm has been limited. One of the major obstacles for women coming forward to claim the reparations is the stigma surrounding wartime sexual violence. The stigma is steeped in gendered patriarchal mores playing themselves out in the politics of postwar peacebuilding within the victims' national community, and it pervades everyday life. By focusing on how an artistic intervention can promote justice for victims of wartime rape, we explore an avenue for supporting gender‐just peacebuilding that is an alternative to women's activism, legal responses, and formal gender equality policies. Despite the “context‐specific natures of claims of justice” (Murphy, 2017, p. 6), the case study of Kosovo reflects the typical pattern of gender‐based harm and the challenges of building gender‐just peace after a civil war. Therefore, our findings reveal everyday dynamics of gendering nation building and contribute to the wider understanding of how the redress for wartime sexual violence perpetuates gender‐insensitive peace (Chinkin & Kaldor, 2013). Empirical research in this article draws on a range of sources. These include the analysis of the Thinking of You art installation, published interviews with the artist, reports of domestic and international media outlets (in Albanian and English), a documentary film about the installation with the same title (Mendoj Për Ty|Thinking of You–Documentary), and speeches by former president of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga. We first outline feminist perspectives on transitional justice and present the analytical gains of applying an everyday nationalism perspective to the study of gendered construction of nationhood. This is followed by a background section on the war, sexual and gender‐based violence, and postwar stigma in Kosovo, as well as an overview of the art installation. The analysis is organized around three conceptual dimensions of everyday nationalism: symbols, discourse, and performance." (Krasniqi et al 2020, 461-2)

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Gender Hierarchies, Gender Equality/Inequality, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, Reparations, Transitional Justice, War Crimes, Nationalism, Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence, Rape Regions: Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Kosovo

Year: 2020

Gender Justice in Post-Conflict Guatemala: The Sepur Zarco Sexual Violence and Sexual Slavery Trial


Burt, Jo-Marie. 2019. "Gender Justice in Post-Conflict Guatemala: The Sepur Zarco Sexual Violence and Sexual Slavery Trial." Social Science Research Network. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.3444514.

Author: Jo-Marie Burt


Guatemala is breaking new ground with a series of high-impact war crimes prosecutions. The 2016 Sepur Zarco trial was one such landmark case: it was the first time that Guatemala prosecuted wartime sexual violence, and the first time that a domestic court prosecuted sexual slavery as a crime against humanity. This case also set important precedents in legal and evidentiary practice. Based on my direct observation of the Sepur Zarco case, this paper examines the legal practices that placed the womensurvivors, not the defendants, at the forefront of the proceedings, and which proved that the state of Guatemala systematically used sexual violence as a weapon of war against women and as a strategy to control the civilian population. It also examines the evidentiary practices in this case, which allowed not only for a conviction more than 30 years after the crimes, but for a broader understanding of the historical context, including land conflict, that led to the atrocities in Sepur Zarco. By piercing the veil of impunity surrounding wartime atrocities and making visible the faces of the victims —indigenous men and women who have historically been relegated to the margins of Guatemalan society— the Sepur Zarco trial is challenging entrenched narratives of denial that have sustained the power of military officials whose influence continues to shape present-day politics in the Central American nation.

Keywords: sexual violence, sexual slavery, Guatemala, human rights, war crimes

Topics: Conflict, Resource Conflict, Gender, Indigenous, International Law, International Criminal Law, Justice, Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Rights, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, Sexual Violence, Sexual Slavery, SV against Women Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: Guatemala

Year: 2019

Prosecuting Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes at the International Criminal Court


Grey, Rosemary. 2019. Prosecuting Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes at the International Criminal Court. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Author: Rosemary Grey


The 1998 Rome Statute, the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC), includes a longer list of gender-based crimes than any previous instrument of international criminal law. The Statute's twentieth anniversary provides an opportunity to examine how successful the ICC has been in prosecuting those crimes, what challenges it has faced, and how its caselaw on these crimes might develop in future. Taking up that opportunity, this book analyses the ICC's practice in prosecuting gender-based crimes across all cases for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the ICC up until mid-2018. This analysis is based on a detailed examination of court records and original interviews with prosecutors and gender experts at the Court. This book covers topics of emerging interest to practitioners in this field, including wartime sexual violence against men and boys, persecution on the grounds of gender and sexual orientation, and sexual violence against 'child soldiers'. (Summary from Cambridge University Press)


Topics: Combatants, Child Soldiers, Feminisms, Gender, Gender-Based Violence, Genocide, International Law, International Criminal Law, Justice, Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes, LGBTQ, Sexual Violence, SV against Men

Year: 2019

Female Crimes against Humanity


DeCarlo, Josephine. 2019. "Female Crimes Against Humanity." In The Encyclopedia of Women and Crime, edited by Frances P. Bernat and Kelly Frailing. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

Author: Josephine DeCarlo


Crimes against women have long been ignored or given diminished priority within justice systems whether those systems were local, national, or international. However, as the world strives for gender equality, the international justice system has begun to recognize the distinctive repercussions for female victims, and how women can be targeted as an identified people group. Through the help of advances within diverse fields (including psychology, sociology, applied criminology, etc.), we have also come to better analyze the motivation(s) behind gender crimes and the circumstances under which they are committed. Through closer analysis of the motivations and circumstances regarding crimes against women, we have further developed and expanded concepts such as crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. (While some notable trials are covered, for the sake of concision, not all are included.) Additionally, we have ascertained that one's sexuality can be utilized as a weapon or strategy of war.

Keywords: gender crimes, genocide, human rights, rape, sexual violence, torture, war crimes

Topics: Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Genocide, International Law, International Criminal Law, Justice, Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes, Rights, Human Rights, Sexual Violence, Rape, Sexuality, Torture

Year: 2019

Sexual Minorities in Conflict Zones: A Review of the Literature


Moore, Melinda W., and John R. Barner. 2017. “Sexual Minorities in Conflict Zones: A Review of the Literature.” Aggression and Violent Behavior 35: 33-37.

Authors: Melinda W. Moore, John R. Barner


In civil and ethnic conflict, sexual minorities experience a heightened risk for war crimes such as sexual violence, torture, and death. As a result, sexual minorities remain an invisible population in armed conflict out of a need for safety. Further study of sexual minorities in conflict zones confronts matters of human rights, war crimes, and the psychosocial effects of war. This article reviews the existing research on sexual minorities in conflict zones, examines the findings on human rights, war crimes, and the psychosocial effects of war and violence on sexual minority populations, and reviews the barriers to effectiveness faced by intervention programs developed spe- cifically to aid post-conflict societies. The article concludes with a summary of findings within the literature and further considerations for research on aggression and violent behavior with sexual minority groups in conflict zones.

Keywords: violence, aggression, Sexual minorities, gender, war, armed conflict, human rights

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Ethnic/Communal Wars, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender-Based Violence, International Law, International Human Rights, Justice, War Crimes, LGBTQ, Rights, Human Rights, Sexual Violence, SV against Men, SV against Women, Torture, Sexual Torture, Violence

Year: 2017

Defining Sexual Violence as a Crime Against Humanity in Colombia: Recommendations for Law 1719 of 2014


Fetterhoff, Christina M. 2014. “Defining Sexual Violence as a Crime Against Humanity in Colombia: Recommendations for Law 1719 of 2014.” Eyes on the ICC 10 (1): 123–46.

Author: Christina M. Fetterhoff


This article examines whether changes to Colombia's Criminal Codes, enacted through new legislation to assure access to justice for victims of sexual violence in the context of armed conflict, provide adequate definitions to bring Colombia in line with international legal standards. If Colombia is successful, it will be able to exercise concurrent jurisdiction with the International Criminal Court over these crimes. However, the current definitions of conflict-related crimes of sexual violence fall short of providing Colombia with this option.

Keywords: International Criminal Law, the International Criminal Court, Colombia, complementarity, sexual violence, Crimes against Humanity, war crimes, gender

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, International Criminal Law, Crimes against Humanity, International Tribunals & Special Courts, War Crimes, Sexual Violence Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2014

"Without These Women, the Tribunal Cannot Do Anything”: The Politics of Witness Testimony on Sexual Violence at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda


Koomen, Jonneke. 2013. “‘Without These Women, the Tribunal Cannot Do Anything’: The Politics of Witness Testimony on Sexual Violence at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.” Signs 38 (2): 253–77. 

Author: Jonneke Koomen


The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was established by the UN Security Council to prosecute high-profile organizers of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, including those responsible for systematic sexual violence against Rwandan women. Focusing on tribunal cases involving mass rape, I examine how global justice for Rwandan women is produced through the politics of translation and negotiation. Through in-depth interviews and ethnographic fieldwork, I investigate how unspeakable suffering is articulated through witness testimony, translated into the language of international law, and mediated through the tribunal bureaucracy. I examine encounters between international tribunal workers and Rwandan witnesses, specifically how ICTR staff investigate sexual violence, gather witness statements, and render individuals’ stories fit for public appearance at the tribunal. I also explore the conditions under which witnesses tell their stories in ICTR courtrooms. I argue that international justice at the ICTR depends on Rwandan victims and witnesses. At the same time, however, the project of international justice for women depends on routine social practices that at times marginalize Rwandan women as objects of justice. I contend that these practices may, counterintuitively, reinforce the distance between “local victims” and the expansive ambitions of international justice.

Topics: Gender, Genocide, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, War Crimes, Post-Conflict, Security, Sexual Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa Countries: Rwanda

Year: 2013

Ending Impunity for Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes: The International Criminal Court and Complementarity in the Democratic Republic of Congo


Lake, Milli. 2014. “Ending Impunity for Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes: The International Criminal Court and Complementarity in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” African Conflict & Peacebuilding Review 4 (1): 1-32

Author: Milli Lake


The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in 2002 to combat impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern. It seeks to do so in two ways: through a series of high-profile cases in The Hague, intended to deter future war criminals; and through its complementarity mechanism, which equips national legal systems to prosecute ICC crimes domestically. Through a case study of the prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this article examines efforts by various stakeholders to realize the legal complementarity principle embedded in the Rome Statute. The article argues that the domestic prosecution of ICC crimes requires developments in four distinct areas: legislative reform, institutional reform, education and training, and the building of public trust and participation. The research also reveals that where developments in these areas have occurred, they have been propelled by a variety of domestic and international stakeholders. However, the ICC itself has failed to contribute significantly to the realization of complementarity that is central to achieving its mandate.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Education, Gender, Gender-Based Violence, International Law, International Criminal Law, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, War Crimes, Sexual Violence, Rape Regions: Africa, Central Africa Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Year: 2014


© 2023 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 info@genderandsecurity.org.

Subscribe to RSS - War Crimes