Feminist Legal Studies

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 149–165 | Cite as

International Criminal Law as a Site for Enhancing Women’s Rights? Challenges, Possibilities, Strategies



Many scholars and activists have argued that the International Criminal Court (ICC) holds potential for advancing the rights of women and girls, leading to extensive feminist engagement with and investment in the Court. As the ICC enters its second decade of existence, this article offers a reflection on both the possibilities and the challenges facing feminists. Can the international criminal law really offer a site for enhancing the rights of women? And if so, how? To explore these questions I focus on the interaction between feminist activism and international criminal law institutions in relation to crimes of sexual and gender-based violence. I argue that some of the feminist strategies deployed to get sexual violence onto the international agenda have resulted in perverse outcomes. This should lead us to greater critical reflection regarding how international law conceives of sexual violence and direct our future engagements with international legal institutions. In particular feminist activists and scholars need to move away from focusing on the number of prosecutions towards challenging the international criminal law to characterise the nature of the harm in accordance with a recognition of sexual rights.


Feminist activism International criminal justice Sexual rights 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social JusticeAustralian Catholic UniversityNorth SydneyAustralia

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