There is growing interest in feminist scholarship among international lawyers and recognition of the value that feminist analysis can bring to the study of Law. This interest group is a network of individuals committed to feminist approaches who together can develop and share their research and generate ideas for regular meetings and thematic seminars. We encourage members and non-members to comment and send ideas via the contact page.Thank you.
By Emily Jones (PhD Candidate, SOAS, London)
On Friday 9th September, the Feminism and International Law Interest Group of the European Society of International Law (ESIL) held an agora entitled ‘The Gendered Imaginaries of Crisis in International Law.’ The agora session was initially inspired by Hilary Charlesworth’s provocative statement that ‘international lawyers revel in a good crisis. A crisis provides a focus for the development of the discipline and it also allows international lawyers the sense that their work is of immediate, intense relevance.’ In this vein, the agora aimed to disrupt mainstream interpretations and perspectives on crisis as well as remind attendees of the various ways in which gender is implicated in the narratives of crisis.
The agora was bilingual (in both French and English). This bilingualism not only helped to disrupt the increasing dominance of the English language at ESIL but also allowed for a wider array of feminist perspectives to be considered.
The panel began with an intervention by Bérénice K. Schramm, the Agora Chair. Bérénice began with a reminder of the many ways in which crisis is utilised globally, not only by international lawyers to revel in but also as a moment for change and resistance, thus disrupting mainstream international legal views of crisis. She also highlighted the many elements of crisis which go unseen, including the sounds and images of crisis, showing pictures of women in Rojava engaging in radical democratic work and drawing on the work of German art collective Maiden Monsters to highlight both the existence of counter images to crises and sounds of crisis and the corollary fact that neoliberalism, from a feminist perspective, is, itself, a crisis.
Bérénice, in her introduction, also read an important statement regarding the situation of academics in Turkey. One of the panellists, Zeynep Kivilcim, sadly, was unable to attend the agora in person and was forced to intervene via Skype. This was due to the current political situation in her country and the crack down by the government on academics and academic freedom. As a signatory to the ‘Academics for Peace’ petition, Zeynep risks being interrogated daily. Bérénice reminded the agora participants of the ongoing situation in Turkey and the need to remember the ways in which crises affect academic work and freedom.
The first paper presented was by Dianne Otto and was entitled ‘Feminist Aspirations and Crisis Law: Navigating Uncomfortable Convergences and New Opportunities.’ Dianne noted the normalisation of crisis in international discourse and the ways in which this spreading atmosphere of crisis has allowed for the expansion of emergency laws and rule by experts and technocrats who often favour neoliberal ends. Her paper went on to highlight the ways in which ‘gender panics’ are also caught up in international discourses on crisis, noting, for example, how the trafficking movement and the panic over preventing sex trafficking has been used, not only to deny women agency and the right to make their own sexual and economic decisions, but also to ignore the wider, structural issues which surround trafficking, including poverty and exploitative labour conditions (noting how the focus on trafficking also works to ignore other migrants).
However, Dianne’s paper ended through the consideration of crisis as a possible moment for progress; crisis as resistance. She noted that crises can be used to highlight other causes, discussing the potential in the sex trafficking crisis to allow for other issues about migration and labour to be highlighted. Dianne further noted that one way to resist would be to resist the idea of crisis itself, highlighting the many ways in which HIV-AIDS activists were successful in doing this, leading to the WHO taking a human rights approach to the HIV-AIDS pandemic which allowed for the structural problems around HIV-AIDS, such as inequality, to be considered.
The second speaker was Marion Blondel, who presented in French, drawing greatly on contemporary feminist debates within France. Her paper, entitled ‘La vulnérabilité comme vertu: Recherche d’une transposition du care en droit international,’ which can roughly be translated as ‘Vulnerability as a Virtue: Looking for a Transposition of Care into International Law’ discussed the ways in which an ethics of care and theories of vulnerability have been, and can be, used in international law. Marion showed the ways in which an ethics of care may be applied to international law to create a system of interdependence and interrelation, as a way to re-think the idea of autonomy in international law. She further used conceptions of vulnerability to suggest new ways for international law to re-think its subjects. Her paper highlighted a number of instances where this has been applied in international law, showing possible models for the future, including in bioethics law.
The third paper was given by Jaya Ramji-Nogales. The paper was entitled ‘International Law and the Construction of Crisis: Feminist Approaches.’ Jaya’s paper explored the ways in which international law is implicated in the creation of crises, particularly focusing on migration and highlighting the many ways in which international law lacks sufficient connection with the lived experience of many of its subjects. She spoke of international migration law’s privileging of cisgender elite males, noting, for example, how the principle of non-refoulement operates to exclude many subjects, including women and LGBTQ individuals, from its central structures.
Like Dianne, Jaya also noted that international law’s gendered imaginaries often depict women as passive victims. She showed how migration law, in its efforts to include women, has been complicit in this victim narrative, offering legal protections to women who have suffered domestic violence, female genital mutilation or as victims of sex trafficking while failing to recognize women’s agency by adequately protecting, for example, migrant domestic workers. She critiqued the carceral approach of anti-trafficking laws as grounded in unsavoury gendered imaginaries of brown males from the Global South and insufficiently attentive to the vulnerability of all migrants. In short, Jaya argued that international law’s response to the needs of migrants with agency who move for a complex range of reasons – particularly the need for safe and lawful transit between states – is deeply inadequate, and that failing is a recipe for crisis.
The final paper of the agora was given by Zeynep Kivilcim who, as discussed above, was obliged to present through Skype due to the ongoing political situation in Turkey. Zeynep’s paper, also presented in French, was entitled ‘La démocratie radicale dans les discours légaux contemporains au Rojava au cœur de la « crise » Syrienne : Une analyse genrée’ which translates roughly as ‘Radical Democracy in Contemporary Legal Discourses in the Heart of the Syrian “Crisis” in Rojava: a gendered analysis.’ Zeynep’s paper noted that the focus on Syria as a crisis in international law has worked to ignore the radical democracy building which is ongoing in the Kurdish region of Rojava in Northern Syria. Rojava’s radical democracy is also based around gender equality, which has been declared as one of the foundational pillars of the new society the people are trying to build. Zeynep highlighted the many ways in which the people of Rojava are trying to ensure a gender equal society, including the making of sexism into a crime and the explicit inclusion of female politicians at all levels.
Noting that self-determination movements have often excluded women and feminist issues from their agendas, often choosing, instead, to prioritise other causes, Zeynep showed how Rojava may provide an alternative example of self-determination, a plural model which is working to explicitly include women and feminist causes from the offset. This movement provides a resistance to international law in the heart of crisis and provides a key example, going back to Dianne’s paper, of the ways in which moments of crisis may also become moments of resistance.
Unfortunately, after consultation with workshop participants we had to cancel the event we had planned jointly with the Law and Theory interest group. The majority of participants either expressly said that they will not come or expressed serious reservations about them coming to Istanbul. It was decided it would therefore be unworkable to maintain the workshop with the majority of those who were supposed to present being absent.
We are delighted that the programme of speakers for our joint interest group meeting at the ESIL Research Forum 2016 (21st April 2016) has been confirmed. Should be an interesting morning! Look forward to seeing you there…
This bilingual roundtable (agora) seeks to convene various perspectives on the ways current crisis-ridden international law, or utopian crisis-free international law, thrive on gendered narratives, as well as how the contributions feminist approaches can offer enlarged critical engagement with the status quo of international law and its focus on crisis. Set up as a roundtable rather than a traditional panel, the agora aims at providing an interactive platform for feminist and/or gender-related engagement with the past, present and future of international law within and without its recurrent crises. Innovative approaches such as research on visual images as well as interdisciplinary reflections uncovering the powerful discursive complex resulting from the interaction between media coverage and international institutions’ communication politics and their impact on the gendered narratives of international law are welcomed. Contributions in French are strongly encouraged. More details and submission information are attached below.
The 11th Annual Conference in Oslo brought together some interesting papers for the interest Group under the Question: ‘Has feminist theory had any substantive effect on the output of International Courts and/or Tribunals?’.
Akayesu’s Rape Definition: an illustration of feminist influence?
Christine M.G. Tremblay, Leiden University
Crossing lines but not bridges: International law, gender and the future of the International Criminal Court
Olga Juraz Open University
Gender stereotyping and the Strasbourg Court’s (Non)Engagements with Feminist Legal Thought
Lourdes Peroni and Alexandra Timmer, Ghent University
The ICJ Croatia v. Serbia Genocide Judgement: A Feminist Assessment
Enzamaria Tramatana, University of Palemo Italy
Exploring ICJ’s (Dis)engagement with Feminism Separate and Dissenting Opinions as an Indicator.
Ekaterina Yahyaoui Krivenko, NUI Galway University
The interest Group was also happy to have some members attend the Women in International Law Happy Hour hosted by Professor Cecilia Bailliet, many thanks for the warm welcome in Oslo.
Representations of Women in International Law
3rd September 2014, 2-6pm
Faculty of Law, University of Vienna, Lecture room 14 (basement)
2:00pm -3:30pm: Panel 1: Representations
- Screening International Criminal Justice : What Part do Women Play ?
Anne Lagerwall, Université Libre de Bruxelles,
- Representations of Women in International Criminal Tribunals
Caterine Arrabal-Ward, Glasgow Caledonian University
- Spectacles of Justice: Gender Crimes in Law and on Screen
Keina Yoshida, London School of Economics
- International Law, Human Trafficking, Everydayness : exploring the ‘dark background of mere givenness’
Siobhan Mullally University College Cork
3:45-5:00pm: Panel 2: Representatives
- A Woman First: Examining the Legacy of the Diplomat, Lawyer and Academic Patricia Roberts Harris
Ursula Tracy Doyle, Northern Kentucky University
- The Ideas of Women
Wendy Guns, Open University, the Netherlands
- Women as State Representatives in Sweden: A feminist Party entering Parliament in 2014
Katarina Jansson, Stockholm Arbitration and Litigation Center
5:15-6:00pm: Idea Sharing: Future Plans for the Interest Group
Paper for discussion: Mentorship and Women in International Law Careers
Cheah Wui Ling, National University of Singapore and Emily Linnea Mahoney, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“REPRESENTATIONS OF WOMEN IN INTERNATIONAL LAW”
Call for Papers – Deadline 11 June 2014
The European Society of International Law (ESIL) Interest Group on Feminism and International Law is calling for papers for its panel during the interest group meetings at the 10th ESIL Anniversary Conference (4th-6th Sept), to be held in Vienna, Austria, on 3 September 2014 from 2-6pm.
Following the overarching theme of the Conference, “International Law and …: Boundaries of International Law and Bridges to Other Fields and Disciplines”, we invite papers addressing the interplay between the representation of women in international law and other disciplines.
Papers may consider (but are not limited to) the following subjects:
* representation of women in international organisations;
* women as state representatives;
* dramatic and visual representations of women in situations such as armed conflict;
* stereotypes in representations of women, such as human rights victims;
* representations of ‘the other woman’ in international law;
* literary accounts of women in international law.
Please submit abstract proposal of no more than 500 words via email to Troy Lavers and Loveday Hodson (Troy.Lavers@le.ac.uk and Loveday.Hodson@le.ac.uk) by 11th June 2014.
Successful applicants will be informed by 30 June 2014. See below for further details.
In addition to the abstract, the following information must be provided on the submission:
- The author’s name and affiliation
- The author’s CV, including a list of relevant publications
- The author’s contact details
- Whether the author is an ESIL member
Papers will be selected by the co-chairs of the Interest Group (Dr. Troy Lavers and Dr Loveday Hodson) on the basis of abstracts submitted. Selection criteria are: originality of the work, links to the panel theme, and geographical representation of the speakers.
The purpose of the panel is to share cutting-edge research in specific areas of international law, to stimulate debate, and to foster contacts between participants. We welcome the sharing of ideas in progress.
In order to participate in the Interest Group panel, speakers must be members of ESIL. The membership can be formalised once abstracts have been accepted.
Unfortunately, the ESIL Interest Group on Feminism and International Law is not in a position to cover expenses for travelling and accommodation, or to waiver the ESIL conference fee.
Information on the 10th ESIL Anniversary Conference is available here: https://esil2014.univie.ac.at/home.
ESIL Interest Group on Feminism and International Law
ADEIT – Fundación Universidad-Empresa de Valencia
Plaza Virgen de la Paz, 3 – 46001 Valencia (España)
9am -10:20 (15 min per paper and 15 min questions)
Reut Yael Paz, Alexander von Humboldt Law Faculty, Ostjüdische Regionalism and Feminism à la Rosa Luxemburg
Loveday Hodson, University of Leicester, The ECHR and Women’s Rights
Enzamaria Tramontana, University of Palermo, Judicial Dialogue and Cross-Fertilization of Regional Women’s Rights Standards: The Case of Reproductive Rights
Dorothy Estrada-Tanck. European University Institute, Violence against Women, Human Security, and Human Rights of Women and Girls
10:30-12:00 (15 min per paper and 15 min questions)
Marion Lewis, American Graduate School in Paris, Women, War and Just War Theory: Why this Silent Majority Must “Bandwagon” To Influence The “Power Brokers” To Create A Normative Framework For Jus Post Bellum
Eki Y. Omorogbe, University of Leicester, The Impact of the African Union on Women in Armed Conflict in Africa
Solange Mouthaan, University of Warwick, Sexual Violence against Men in Armed Conflict in Africa
CHEAH Wui Ling, National University of Singapore, Exploring Institutionalisation through Regionalisation: The Limits of Legal Mobilisation and the ‘Comfort Women’ Movement’s Experience in Southeast Asia
Female circumcision, universal jurisdiction and equality before the law by Nicolás Zambrana-Tévar
A couple from Gambia who lives in Alcañiz (Aragon, Spain) has been condemned to 6 (the father) and 2 (the mother) years in prison, respectively, for being responsible, alone or with the help of unknown accomplices, of the circumcision of their daughter, who is now two years old (please see Decision Nº26, of 15 November 2011 / Sentencia Nº26 de 15 de noviembre de 2011; http://www.heraldo.es/uploads/documentos/documentos_ablacionjpg_2baa227c.pdf). It is the first case of this kind in Spain that reaches the stage of oral proceedings. There have been other cases before this one but they have all been stayed after it has been determined, in the course of the investigatory stage, that the facts had taken place abroad, taking also into account the difficulties encountered in finding out the identity of those responsible for the atrocity. In this case, it has been considered proven that the female circumcision was carried out in Spain. The Spanish 1994 Criminal Code punishes the severance of the genitals (in males or females) with up to 12 years in prison and the withdrawal of the children’s custody, which is subject to the plea of the Prosecutor. The tribunal has been more lenient with the mother because it has considered proven that she did not know that female circumcision was illegal in Spain. The tribunal has not given any importance to the defence’s arguments that the father was bound “by the weight of tradition”. Furthermore, the tribunal has underscored that this is an attack against a woman’s rights and sexuality and can also lead to trauma and infections of different kinds. Interesting for international lawyers is the fact that Spanish courts have universal jurisdiction to adjudicate in cases of female circumcision, no matter the nationality of the victim nor of the perpetrator, nor the place where the facts take place. This was the case prior to a 2009 legal reform which, according to many, did away with universal jurisdiction in Spain because, after the aforementioned reform, some sort of link with Spain is also required for Spanish courts to have jurisdiction. In the case of the Gambian couple, the Prosecutor alleged and proved that the circumcision took place in Spain, so the rules on universal jurisdiction have not been invoked. Nevertheless, the couple insisted that the facts had taken place in Gambia and that those responsible where the girl’s grandparents. Furthermore, the Spanish constitution, as so many others, contains a specific precept on equality before the law. Could the Spanish rules on universal jurisdiction for female circumcision be against that principle of equality and be, therefore, unconstitutional, for being only applicable to victims who are women and not to male castration? This may not be the case after theSpanish Constitutional Court issued a judgement in 2009 which considered to be constitutional a 2004 statute which punished slightly more heavily domestic violence against women than against men. We will have to wait until another female circumcision case arises in order to see if this issue of the unconstitutionality of universal jurisdiction rules is considered.