Application of intersectionality in International Criminal Law and practice

In collaboration with the Unit for Global Justice at Goldsmiths University and the Emergent Justice Collective (EJC).


In most – if not all - contexts of mass violence, both perpetrators and victims locate at multiple intersecting forms of structural discrimination and systems of oppression within the context of respective society. These constitute the backdrop of the harms and criminal conduct international criminal law (ICL) aims to account for.

This webinar series critically explores whether and how intersectionality may offer a lens and a method for ICL to hold individual perpetrators responsible while also accounting for intersecting structural factor as drivers of violence.

The  concept ‘intersectionality’ was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw to provide a multi-axis framework for anti-discrimination law that acknowledges the experiences of discrimination of Black American women on the basis of their race, sex, and class identities simultaneously. In Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Colour, Crenshaw highlights ‘the need to account for multiple grounds of identity when considering how the social world is constructed’.

Intersectionality sheds light on the dynamics of inequalities and their social harms experienced by historically marginalized individuals and collectivities. Concerning international crimes, it has the potential to unpack interlinked systems of discrimination as a point of departure to understand the criminal conduct and victims´ multi-faceted harms, necessary for effective remedies.

The application of intersectionality, conceptualized and applied predominantly in the context of the domestic legal framework pertaining to discrimination in the United States, to ICL is challenging and, thus far, has not been applied as a coherent methodology in practice.

Although ICL jurisprudence contains a few traces of intersectionality, ICL practice tends to homogenize protected groups, their subgroups and individuals. Such a single-axis (one-dimensional) approach not only overlooks the root causes of international crimes and their impact on individuals and collectivities. It also fails to adequately account for and prevent those international crimes.

Although intersectionality can be found in academia, the court room and in policy-making, it still has a long way to become a practice that informs an efficient interpretation of violence and its impact. Most of all, it is practiced by grassroots global movements and by communities ongoing struggles of historical, structural marginalisation.

This webinar series convenes four discussions exploring the potential of intersectionality as a ’practice of critique’ and a ’corrective methodology’ to analyse mass atrocities. It is a first of its kind reflection among expert academics and practitioners on the benefits, operationalisation, and challenges of integrating intersectionality in ICL for the benefit of survivors, communities, and institutions.

Aim

This series aims to be a conversation starter. A space for exchange and learning through dialogue and empathy. We respect and validate expertise where it exists whether academic, lived experience or professional skill. We hope to connect with people already employing this approach in academia and in practice, and to engage with those who would like to know more and apply intersectionality.

To promote a continuing collaboration with discussants and participants, the webinars will be recorded and accessible online with a summary report. We aim to consolidate the reflections and to continue the discussion as part of a wider public consultation process on the applicability of intersectionality in ICL.

Webinar 1

'Introductory reflections: What can intersectionality mean for international justice?'

Monday, 6 December 2021 from 4.00-5.30pm (GMT) 5.00-6.30pm (CET)

Opening remarks

  • Prof. Siobhán Wills, Transitional Justice Institute (TJI), Ulster University
  • Dr. Kirsten Campbell, Unit for Global Justice, Goldsmiths University

Discussants

  • Prof. Patricia Viseur Sellers
  • Adejoké Babington-Ashaye
  • Dato’ Shyamala Alagendra
  • Dr. Yassin Brunge
  • Ana Martin

Facilitator

  • Alexandra Lily Kather

Further events in this series

Webinar 2

'Intersectional approaches to investigations and prosecutions of international crimes'

Tuesday, 25 January 2022 from 4.00-5.30pm (GMT) 5.00-6.30pm (CET)

Intersectionality is explored in relation to investigations and prosecutions, including techniques and methodologies, and the challenges of its operationalisation in the context of ICL. We consider the lessons learnt internationally and domestically from academics and practitioners.

Webinar 3

'Enhancing cooperation and representation among international criminal justice actors through intersectional approaches'

Tuesday, 15 February 2022 from 4.00-5.30pm (GMT) 5.00-6.30pm (CET)

Operationalising intersectionality requires considering the constraints and opportunities of the systems and institutions involved. It is crucial to address power relations and cooperation between the different actors to improve access to justice for individuals and groups.

Webinar 4

'Envisioning the future of international justice: Intersectional approaches to transformation and accountability'

Tuesday, 15 March 2022 from 4.00-5.30pm (GMT) 5.00-6.30pm (CET)

Underpinning the application of intersectionality lies a vision of complementary paths of accountability. This, from a reparations and prevention perspective, involves issues such as affirming institutions, redistribution of resources, and transformative justice. Operationalising intersectionality demands a structural reform within the justice system itself.


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