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A Gendered International Law of Peace

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - GenderedPeace (A Gendered International Law of Peace)

Période du rapport: 2021-09-01 au 2023-08-31

2020 marked the twentieth anniversary of the UN Security Council’s ‘Women and Peace and Security’ (WPS) agenda. The initiative was welcomed by women’s transnational and local groups as promising transformative change to further peace and equality. Yet, in the period since its adoption, militarised conceptions of security have been privileged over peace; countering violent extremism integrated into the agenda; women have been co-opted and instrumentalized; and redressing gender and other inequalities have been sidelined. Meanwhile, the costs of failed peace and continuing violence has continued to exact a heavy toll on societies: destroying infrastructures, collapsing economies and fuelling insecurities each of which disproportionately affect women and girls.

The problem addressed by this research project is whether the potential for transformative change and radical reform as originally envisaged by the WPS agenda can be realised and, if so, how. What would a radical recentering on peace perceived through a feminist/gender lens look like? Where does international law fit? Can international law, notwithstanding its genealogy in colonialism and patriarchy, be reimagined to more effectively advance peaceful societies founded on justice and equality?

The project’s overarching aim is to rethink international law by centring peace and gender informed by insights from multiple disciplines. It challenges dominant accounts of what constitutes peace and gender equality, to disrupt state-centric peace paradigms, and to prompt further thinking within the research community on how best to secure these goals. Three parallel objectives were identified: i) to develop the theoretical foundations for a ‘gendered international law of peace’; ii) to produce, through three thematically distinct but inter-linked streams of study, research of academic excellence that addresses normative and conceptual knowledge gaps; and iii) to propose new understandings of the WPS agenda and provide additional tools to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment.
In the final reporting period we continued to develop alternative readings of key WPS concepts at the intersection with international law, making our outputs (journal articles, book chapters, reports, concept notes, blogs, podcasts, and documentaries) freely available and accessible through the project webpage. Peace and gender framed our writings (‘Women and the right to peace’; ‘Give peace a chance’; ‘Intersectionality and Peace’) and external and internal activities prompting scholars from other disciplines to engage with our ideas around gendered peace (British Academy workshop). Our publications challenged dominant conceptions of gender particularly by UN mandated fact-finding commissions which play a critical role in post-conflict peace-building. Through workshops and public events we argued for a more nuanced, expansive and embedded understanding of what a gender analysis entails including in the context of international criminal law (‘Bringing a gender perspective to crimes against humanity’; ‘Integrating gender into Commissions of Inquiry’.) Insights gained through direct engagements with women from conflict-affected areas fed into an enriched understanding of what peace means to differently situated women and helped to identify the gaps and failings in law and policy. Our work on trafficking demonstrated how trafficking contributes to and is exacerbated by armed conflict yet remains peripheral to the WPS agenda. Working with partners (Women’s Link Worldwide, the UN Special Rapporteur on human trafficking) we sought to make combatting trafficking a central concern of violence prevention and post-conflict peacebuilding (‘International human rights, criminal law and the women, peace and security agenda’; ‘Human trafficking and the women, peace and security agenda’) and provided expert opinions to the Security Council and judicial bodies. As with trafficking, our work on disarmament revealed how the topic is treated as of marginal relevance to the protection of women’s rights notwithstanding its centrality to conflict prevention. Our work disrupted this dominant narrow framing through a more expansive reading of WPS (‘Women and weapons’ concept note; ‘Women’s peace activism can end conflict’; ‘Nuclear weapons’ opinion).

We drew attention to the law underpinning the WPS agenda highlighting how securitisation limits the potential of WPS to protect women’s human rights and prevent interpersonal violence and structural violence (‘Women, Peace and Security: tackling violence against women in the contemporary world?’) and the need for states to adopt a rights-based framework (‘International human rights, criminal law and the WPS agenda’, ‘Information and communication technologies and the WPS agenda’). We elaborated on the responsibility of states, rejecting claims around ‘ungovernable spaces’ and urged for a more progressive agenda on the international responsibility of non-state actors that better aligns with the lived realities of women’s live (‘In times of crisis’). We identified lacunae in law to counter violence against women and drew attention to good practice (‘Preventing and combatting sexism). We provided legal analyses to reverse gender injustices in existing law (Colombia amicus brief) and argued for adoption of survivor-centric (‘Ending impunity and prioritising survivors’) intersectional, holistic approaches drawing links between human rights law and WPS. We emphasised the obligation on states to provide reparations, demonstrating how a gender analysis can ensure effective compliance, address the needs of survivors and facilitate structural change thereby preventing the violence in the first place (‘The right to reparations’; ‘Inter-American Court reaches landmark decision on torture and sexual slavery’). Through the cross-cutting theme of ‘space’ we addressed normative gaps (‘Protecting women and girls in refugee camps’; ‘Yemeni activists pay the price’) while the theme of ‘time’ allowed us to elaborate on the histories of feminist peace activism, including through archival work (100 years of peace activism; ‘The world is not organised for peace’; ‘Women’s peace activism and conflict’; Gender Justice and Gender Peace).

We have delivered significantly more than the objectives set out in the original proposal (two peer reviewed articles from each stream and two monographs). Our final output, a collection of essays on 'Gendered Peace and International Law' (Chinkin & Arimatsu) will be released in spring 2024.
Progress beyond the state of the art:
- reframing the WPS discourse through a gendered international law of peace;
- elaborating more fully on the scope and content of state responsibility to advance gender equality and a gender just peace;
- linking cross-cutting themes to provide legal analyses founded on feminist methods;
- utilising alternative methods (film) to convey legal narratives;
- challenging mainstream legal scholarship that fails to take account of alternative histories, perspectives and voices thereby perpetuating exclusion and marginalisation (and discrimination, intended or not) foreclosing opportunities for transformative change.
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