Gender Justice or Gendered Justice? Female Defendants in International Criminal Tribunals

Feminist Legal Studies 25 (3):337-357 (2017)


Recent scholarship has given increasing attention to studying women’s involvement in conflict and mass violence. However, there is comparatively less discussion of the experiences of women as actors and perpetrators in conflict, and limited discussion of women as defendants in international criminal tribunals. This article explores this under-researched area. By analysing legal materials from the cases of six female defendants, this article investigates the extent to which legal discourses are shaped by stereotypes regarding femininity, conflict and peace. It identifies three gender narratives—mothers, monsters and wives—used in relation to female defendants, which highlight the incompatibility of femininity with violence, and deny women’s agency in political and military contexts. Thus, this article concludes that female defendants in international criminal tribunals are viewed through gendered lenses, and discussed in accordance with gendered themes. This gendered justice is problematic, as it reinforces patriarchal gender stereotypes, and may hinder attempts to facilitate gender justice.

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