Valerie Oosterveld is the Associate Dean (Research and Administration) and an Associate Professor with tenure at the University of Western Ontario Faculty of Law (Western Law) in London, Ontario, Canada. She is also the Associate Director of Western's Centre for Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction. She has published extensively in the field of gender issues within international criminal justice processes, including on sexual and gender-based violence. In 2014, she was inaugurated into the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. In 2010, she served on the Canadian delegation to the Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Prior to joining Western Law in 2005, she was a lawyer in the Legal Affairs Bureau of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, where she provided legal advice on international criminal law and international criminal tribunals, and was involved in the creation of the International Criminal Court and the Special Court for Sierra Leone. She earned her J.S.D. and LL.M. at Columbia Law School in New York, her LL.B. from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and her B.Soc.Sc. from the University of Ottawa.


The term ‘gender’ is used in decisions, judgments and policies of international criminal tribunals. For example, in June 2014, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court adopted a Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender-based Crimes. While, for the most part, the term is referred to in the context of sexual violence, it has also been understood in its wider sense as socially-constructed norms of maleness and femaleness. For example, the Special Court for Sierra Leone has analyzed the role played by gender assumptions in certain forms of enslavement, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has considered how gender stereotypes influenced certain modes of genocide. A nuanced understanding of gender has emerged over time within international criminal law, but there are still many instances where ‘gender’ is incorrectly equated with  ‘women’, ‘girls’ or ‘sex’. This talk will examine recent judgments of international criminal justice institutions – including the Katanga judgment of the International Criminal Court – to illustrate how gender is both understood and misunderstood in international criminal law.