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It is rare today to hear of an armed conflict in which there is not some discussion of the extent to which one or both sides of the conflict has engaged in sexual violence. Over the past 20 years, international NGOs and institutions alike have paid significant attention to sexual violence in conflict. They have attempted to address it through international humanitarian and criminal law, United Nations Security Council resolutions, and even international military intervention. This subject will critically consider the deployment of these various legal mechanisms to address sexual violence, and will consider some of the assumptions about sexual violence and international law that animate them. Because initially women’s human rights advocates were behind much of the advocacy, it will also consider the various views of feminism and gender that have become mainstreamed through their appeals to the strong arm of the State and of powerful international governmental alliances to bring an end to sexual violence. The lecturer, Professor Karen Engle has been academically engaged with these issues quite extensively over the past two decades.
Principal topics will include:
- Historical regulation of rape by international humanitarian law
- The history of the women’s human rights movement’s prioritisation of and engagement with the treatment of sexual violence in conflict
- The mobilisation of the occurrence of sexual violence to call for various forms of international intervention
- The international criminal legal treatment of sexual violence in conflict
- How might international law and politics respond to the perception that sexual violence is inherently shameful?
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Have a critical understanding of the international legal treatment of sexual violence in conflict.
- Be able to assess the interplay between the legal regimes applicable to war-time violence more broadly, in particular human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law.
- Have a highly developed understanding of the key theoretical and political debates among advocates and policy-makers with regard to the treatment of sexual violence in conflict, including among feminists.
- Be able to assess some of the unintended consequences of the international legal treatment of sexual violence in conflict, and consider alternative creative and effective responses to the violations.
Last updated: 11 February 2021