To what extent is a gender bias in international law responsible for the failure to adequately address victims of sexual violence in conflict?

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Debecker, Liesbet
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This thesis looks into the international legal framework criminalizing conflict-related sexual violence. It establishes that a gender bias causes sexual violence towards men and women to be overlooked. It argues that this gender bias was historically always present in international criminal law, leading to a legal framework that was grossly inadequate to properly address sexual violence. In the last decades, attention for sexual violence was on the rise and the historically faulty framework improved through the case law of the ICTY and ICTR. Based on this case law, the Rome Statute included the longest list of conflict-related sexual violence crimes ever in international law. On the surface, this framework is gender-neutral and makes no distinction between male and female victims. This thesis argues, however, that the gender bias did not leave international law entirely. On the contrary, it is still very much present in the application of the framework. This means that, even though on paper, the framework improved tremendously, international law still fails to address victims of sexual violence properly. This gender bias is demonstrated through specific examples of ICC case law that failed to take the gender dimension into account.
Second semester University: Utrecht University
international criminal law, sexual violence, sex crimes, conflict, international criminal tribunals, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, International Criminal Court