The International Criminal Court: A New Arena for Transforming Gender Justice?

  • Louise Chappell


As with other institutions of global governance, international law — including that regulating human security and rights — has traditionally operated according to a strict gender code. Not only has it treated men and women differently when they experience the same crimes, but it has also failed to address the different acts of violence men and women experience in times of conflict. Until very recently, it has overwhelmingly been the case that men, and male experiences, have been used as the standard for international humanitarian law. Throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium this pattern gradually started to change through the decisions of the UN ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and, more particularly, through the advent of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This chapter explores these developments. It considers the objectives, successes and limitations of transnational gender-justice activists working through the ICC, and seeks to contribute to a growing comparative literature on gender and global governance by identifying the features of the political opportunity structure that have enhanced (and curtailed) the influence of these actors in this new arena of international law. It also assesses the extent to which changes to the international gender-justice regime have been transformative in terms of opening up new ways of defining women’s experiences of war and conflict in ways which enhance their access to justice.


United Nations Sexual Violence Armed Conflict International Criminal Court International Criminal 
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© Louise Chappell 2008

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  • Louise Chappell

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