Gender issues and the International Criminal Court

9 May


Recently, GAPW participated in a panel discussion on Gender and the ICC, primarily on how gender-based crimes are prosecuted by the ICC and some of the challenges of the Court.  The discussion focused mostly on victim testimony. While victims of gender-based violence are open to talk about their experiences privately, they refuse to testify on the stand, and sometimes even change their stories on the stand, because of the stigma they will face within their families or communities, should their experiences be made public.

The issues of stigma and prosecution of gender-based crimes are relevant not only in the context of testifying in court, but also in providing healing to survivors of violence and communities and subsequently promoting reintegration. Healing is a necessary step to ensure for the adequate reintegration of survivors back into their communities and to promote a culture of participation and gender equality.  Survivors of violence can often face stigma within their communities in that they can be accused for being at fault or responsible for the violence they suffered. Publicly reporting and sharing such abuses can make the survivors, and their families, targets of stigma or cultural/community taboos. Accountability and prosecution of these crimes can make significant progress in changing those misconceptions or taboos that the victim is the offender, or that women are the only victims of sexual violence and that men cannot be the victims of sexual abuse as well.  Therefore, investigating, arresting, charging perpetrators and holding them accountable in an international tribunal can help promote a culture of deterrence and reintegration, and subsequently encourage victims to come forward and share their experiences at a public trial without fearing of the consequences within their communities.

Among the other topics discussed at the panel presentation included internal gender issues that the ICC is faced with, such as staff misconduct or gender balance, managing a heavy case load, as well as gender-based crimes and sexual and reproductive crimes.  As we move forward, of course, we must ensure that voices from the victims are allowed and encouraged in the trial proceedings. By the same token, however, we must provide for the security of these victims to share their stories, whether by ensuring that their families and work lives will be taken care while away testifying or ensuring that they will not be stigmatized within their own communities for sharing the abuses they suffered.

Finally, it is important to emphasize that issues of prosecution and accountability for gender-based crimes, as well as issues of accessibility and agency, and overall international peace and security, are complimentary issues within the UN and other relevant stakeholders, including the ICC, and we must continue to promote collaborative work to tackle these challenges effectively.

-Melina Lito 

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