Feminist interventions: human rights, armed conflict and international law.

Position:Proceedings of the One Hundred Third Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law: International Law as Law - Discussion

This panel was convened at 9:00 a.m., Thursday, March 26, by its moderator, Vasuki Nesiah of the International Center for Transitional Justice, who introduced the panelists: Doris Buss of Carleton University School of Law; Janet Halley of Harvard Law School; and Ratna Kaput of the Centre for Feminist Legal Research. *

The international landscape of conflict and peace-building has undergone a fundamental transformation over the last few years with developments as diverse as the inauguration of the ICC and the 'war on terror,' the institutionalization of large scale rule of law and good governance projects, and the deployment of unprecedented numbers of peace keeping troops the world over. Women's human rights, and sexual violence in particular, has achieved a new prominence in this landscape, and narratives of women's victimhood have been the primary entry point for feminist interventions in international law. From the Akayesu decision a decade ago to the 2008 passage of Security Council Resolution 1820 on ending sexual violence as a tactic in war, this focus has been pivotal in defining the legal and political meanings of feminism on an international plane.

This session will seek to assess the strategic import of international conflict feminism, its attention to sexual violence in armed conflict, and its mobilization of a victimhood framework. As noted in our panel description, we will look at:

[W]hat this approach highlights and what it obscures, what it empowers and what it defeats. What were the strategic reasons for a focus on sexual violence in armed conflict and do these factors continue to obtain? What are the political, legal, cultural politics of feminism in relation to these new terrains? Does this focus obscure the myriad other ways in which women and men are affected by global systems of inequality, whether in the context of armed conflict or not? Who should be the subject of feminist interventions in international law? Do we need to 'take a break' from feminism? Indeed, this may be a pivotal moment to look at the changing meanings of feminism and bring critical questions to the way in which global feminism constructs global subjects.

Let me set the stage for this conversation by briefly reviewing the different steps that moved us to the current conjuncture. Feminist interventions in the transitional justice field have sought to address the historic lack of acknowledgement regarding women's experience of armed conflict and the...

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