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Article

Gender Expertise in International Organizations  

Özlem Altan-Olcay

Gender experts and gender expertise as a field of knowledge production and policymaking emerged in the late 20th century in response to the growing acceptance of gender mainstreaming in national bureaucracies as well as international organizations. Initially conceptualized as femocrats, gender experts and the resources devoted to them were welcome as important achievements of feminist movements in making their demands part of institutional frameworks. However, gender expertise is at the center of two important debates in feminist scholarship. First, feminist scholars, including those who have held positions as gender experts, debate the relationship between advocacy, professionalization, and the dangers of co-optation. These debates often connect with discussions of co-optation in broader scholarship on transformations in feminist discourses in institutional spaces. Second, critical scholarship has also produced much empirical data on the power inequalities in complex organizational settings within which gender experts operate. This scholarship focuses more on the actual experiences of gender experts. These debates may also give rise to new research on and with gender experts concerning the interactions between the researcher and the research subject, the positionality of thinking and writing today with hopes for (and despairs about) tomorrow, and the need to problematize binaries of the East and the West, the Global North and the South in knowledge production.

Article

Women’s Rights as Human Rights  

Jutta Joachim

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.

Article

Gender and Transitional Justice  

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.

Article

Genealogies of Intersectionality in International Relations  

Celeste Montoya and Kimberly Killen

The term intersectionality was introduced in the late 1980s by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a U.S. legal scholar critiquing single-axis approaches (i.e., race only or gender only) to oppression that often obscure those residing at the intersection of multiple marginalities and preclude them from justice. Since then, intersectionality has become a burgeoning field of study aimed at exploring and addressing the complexity of multiple and intersecting dimensions of power and oppression. While scholars across a range of disciplines have engaged intersectionality and incorporated intersectional analysis into their work, its explicit application and study in international relations (IR) has been somewhat limited. While intersectionality, named as such, may be less common in IR, postcolonial, Third World, transnational, Islamic, and queer feminist scholars and activists have long sought to complicate traditional understandings of power. Identifying and tracing the genealogical strands of their intersectional thinking and interventions help demonstrate the relevance and potential of intersectionality for the study of IR.

Article

Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence  

Philipp Schulz and Anne-Kathrin Kreft

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.

Article

Geographic Insights Into Political Identity  

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.

Article

International Law, Technology, and Gender-Based Violence  

Carlotta Rigotti

Although information and communication technologies (ICTs) and artificial intelligence (AI) offer a unique opportunity to help personal autonomy flourish and promote diversity in society, their deployment has increasingly proved to channel new harm. Generally speaking, online and technology-facilitated violence comes to mean any abusive act that is committed, facilitated, or amplified via ICTs and other AI-based technologies. Also, it appears that this abuse is gender-based and intersectional, is experienced as a continuum of offline violence, and negatively affects the individual, as well as society. Accordingly, because online and technology-facilitated violence is borderless, and the same rights that people have offline must likewise be respected online, the international community has started undertaking some joint action. This is the case, for example, of the Platform of Independent Expert Mechanisms on the Elimination of Discrimination and Violence Against Women, as well as the European Commission and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. At the same time, a growing body of diverse literature suggests several courses of action for the international response to online and technology-facilitated violence against women. More precisely, greater effort is considered to be necessary to fill the terminological and data gaps that counteract the effectiveness of legal, policy, and other measures addressing online and technology-facilitated violence against women. Furthermore, numerous scholars make concrete and/or original suggestions that could facilitate the prevention and support of victims of online and technology-facilitated violence, such as the engagement of pop feminism in social media campaigns and the adoption of bystander intervention models. In terms of legal reform, there is common agreement that it should keep up with the continuous development of technology and the personal experiences of the victims, while going beyond the mere criminalization of the wrongdoings. Special emphasis is also put on the necessary regulation and engagement with internet platforms, to strengthen the legal and policy responses, as well as to hold them accountable.

Article

LGBTI Human Rights in Global Politics  

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.