Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) has become ‘hyper-visible’ in international criminal justice, yet scholars disagree whether this is a good thing for feminism or not. In focusing on the normative question of whether international criminal law can be a force for good, the empirical question, namely what exactly happens when critical concepts such as gender are incorporated into international criminal justice institutions has been neglected. Drawing on 70 interviews at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and in Uganda, this paper argues that a gender backlash has been fomenting in international criminal justice with some practitioners expressing their discomfort with the ‘ubiquitous gender discourse’. They point out that the Court’s ‘gender agenda’ is in no small part driven from ‘outside’ and lament that it neglects sexual crimes against men. The paper shows how gender is recuperated by playing into legal sensibilities that see procedure (impartiality) rather than substantive change as the essence of (criminal) law. While patriarchy is often mystified as a ‘historical legacy’ in legal institutions, this paper explores the ongoing discursive and institutional reproduction of patriarchal assumptions by making them more palatable to contemporary sensibilities.
Leila Ullrich is a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Criminology, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford. Her postdoctoral research examines the interplay between terrorism, counter-terrorism and gender through a comparative case study of the United Kingdom, Kenya and Lebanon. Before starting her postdoctoral research, she worked as social stability adviser at UNDP in Lebanon. In this capacity, she created, secured funding for and implemented a WhatsApp-based survey of Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities to better understand local conflict dynamics and needs. In December 2016, she defended her doctoral thesis at the University of Oxford which explored the interpretation, use and practice of ‘justice for victims’ and ‘gender justice’ at the International Criminal Court. She has published her research in the Journal of International Criminal Justice and is currently working on her manuscript ‘The (Un-)making of ‘Justice for Victims’ at the International Criminal Court (ICC)’.