Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, notable progress has been made toward holding accountable those responsible for conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), with a view toward ending impunity. Developments by the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, as well as by the International Criminal Court, were instrumental to advancing jurisprudence on sexual violence in the context of armed conflict. Despite progress in seeking to hold perpetrators accountable, critics note that there is persistent impunity and a vacuum of justice and accountability for sexual violence crimes in most conflict-affected settings globally. At the same time, feminist scholars in particular have critiqued the ways in which criminal proceedings often fail sexual violence survivors, especially by further silencing their voices and negating their agency. These intersecting gaps and challenges ultimately reveal the need for a broader, deeper, thicker, and more victim-centered understanding of justice and redress in response to sexual violence.
Philipp Schulz and Anne-Kathrin Kreft
Feminism has provided some new perspectives to the discourse on human rights over the years. Contemporary feminist scholarship has sought to critique the liberalism on which the conception of formal “equality” in the international human rights laws has been derived on a number of grounds. Two of the most pertinent critiques for this discussion are: the androcentric construction of human rights; and the perpetuation of the false dichotomy between the public and private spheres. This exploration of the relationship between liberalism and women’s human rights constitutes a significant shift in which many feminists had realized that the emphasis on “sameness” with men was limited in its utility. This shift rejected the “sameness” principle of the liberal feminists and brought gender-specific abuses into the mainstream of human rights theory and practice. By gender mainstreaming international institutions and future human rights treaties, specific women’s rights could be defined as human rights more generally. Feminists have since extended their critique of androcentrism and the public–private dichotomy to the study of gender inequalities and economic globalization, which is an important systemic component of structural indivisibility. In particular, the broader women’s human rights movement has come to realize that civil-political liberties and socioeconomic rights are inextricable, though there is disagreement over the exact nature of this relationship.
Maria Martin de Almagro and Philipp Schulz
Transitional justice (TJ) refers to a set of measures and processes that deal with the legacies of human rights abuses and violent pasts, and that seek to aid societies transitioning from violence and conflict toward a more just and peaceful future. Much like the study of armed conflict and peacebuilding more broadly, the study and practice of transitional justice was traditionally silent on gender. Historically, gendered conflict-related experiences and harms have not been adequately addressed by most transitional justice mechanisms, and women in particular have been excluded from the design, conceptualization, and implementation of many TJ processes globally. While political violence perpetrated against men remained at the center of TJ concerns, a whole catalogue of gendered human rights abuses perpetrated primarily against women has largely remained at the peripheries of dominant TJ debates and interventions. Catalyzed by political developments at the United Nations within the realm of the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda and by increasing attention to crimes of sexual violence by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), however, the focus in the 2000s has been radically altered to include the treatment of gender in transitional contexts. As such, considerations around gender and sex have increasingly gained traction in TJ scholarship and praxis, to the extent that different justice instruments now seek to engage with gendered harms in diverse ways. Against this background, to the authors review this growing engagement with gender and transitional justice, offering a broad and holistic overview of legal and political developments, emerging trends, and persistent gaps in incorporating gender into the study and practice of TJ. The authors show how gender has been operationalized in relation to different TJ instruments, but the authors also unearth resounding feminist critiques about the ways in which justice is approached, as well as how gender is often conceptualized in limited and exclusionary terms. To this end, the authors emphasize the need for a more sustained and inclusive engagement with gender in TJ settings, drawing on intersectional, queer, and decolonial perspectives to ultimately address the variety of gendered conflict-related experiences in (post)conflict and transitional settings.
Emily Gilbert and Connie Yang
Moving away from the conventional geopolitical analyses of territory, states, and nations, geographical research is now focused on the ways that political identities are constituted in and through spaces and places at various sites and scales. Many geographers attend to how power gets articulated, who gets marginalized, and what this means for social justice. Poststructuralist theory problematized the fundamental premise that the literal subject is resolutely individual, autonomous, transparent, and all knowing. Feminist and critical race scholars have also insisted that the self is socially embedded and intersubjective, but also that research needs to be embodied. There are four prominent and inherently political themes of analysis in contemporary geographical research that resonate with contemporary events: nation states and nationalism; mobility and global identities; citizenship and the public sphere; and war and security. Geographers have critically examined the production and reproduction of national identity, especially salient with the rise of authoritarianism. Geographers have also focused on the contemporary transnationalization of political identity as the mobility of people across borders becomes more intensive and extensive because of globalization. Consequently, globalization and global mobility have raised important questions around citizenship and belonging. Rethinking war and the political, as well as security, has also become a pressing task of geographers. Meanwhile, there has been a growing attention to the political identities of academics themselves that resonates with a concern about forms of knowledge production. This concern exists alongside a critique of the corporatization of the university. Questions are being raised about whether academics can use their status as scholars to push forward public debate and policy making.
Phillip M. Ayoub
Transnational organizing by groups dedicated to promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people is not a particularly new phenomenon, though it remained rare in the early decades of the 20th century. It was not until the advent of the sexual liberation movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s that LGBTI issues became more prominent. Moreover, despite their diversity, these transnational groups and networks have been able to speak with an increasingly unified voice, setting out a relatively coherent vision for global LGBTI human rights organizing. Over the past three decades, transnational LGBTI human rights activists have become increasingly successful in getting their voices heard and demands met within prominent international organizations such as the European Union and the United Nations. This success, however, has varied dramatically across international organizations and among the states they represent. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the Western origins and biases of transnational LGBTI movements and human rights principles, as well as the greater levels of tolerance toward homosexuality in the region, LGBTI rights organizations have had their greatest successes in Europe. Generally speaking, however, there has been a significant expansion of LGBTI rights over the past 30 years, even if it has come with a notable backlash and resistance. Yet despite these dramatic developments, the study of LGBTI politics has remained peripheral to most fields within the discipline of political science. This is slowly changing thanks to a proliferation of scholarship, including bridge-building work and an empirical turn, that is moving LGBTI research slightly closer to the center of the field.
For centuries, women have been struggling for the recognition of their rights. Women’s rights are still being dismissed by United Nations (UN) human rights bodies and even governments, despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. It was not until the 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria that states began to recognize women’s rights as human rights. However, this institutional change cannot solely be credited to the UN, but more importantly to the work of international women’s organizations. According to the social movement theory, these organizations have been permeating intergovernmental structures and, with the help of their constituents and experienced leaders, framing women’s rights as human rights in different ways throughout time. It is through mobilizing resources and seizing political opportunities that women’s rights activists rationalize how discrimination and exclusion resulted from gendered traditions, and that societal change is crucial in accepting women’s rights as fully human. But seeing as there are still oppositions to the issue of women’s rights as human rights, further research still needs to be conducted. Some possible venues for research include how well women’s rights as human rights travel across different institutions, violence against women, how and in what way women’s rights enhance human rights, and the changes that have taken place in mainstream human rights and specialized women’s rights institutions since the late 1980s as well as their impact.