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Gender and the Law of Occupation

Contact: Prof Fionnuala Ní Aoláin

Supported by a British Academy Small Grant (2011), PSRP DfID and by the Distinguished Researcher Award at the Ulster University (2016).

One glaring limitation in addressing the experiences of women in situations of armed conflict is the absence of a sustained analysis of the structural limits and capture of the law of occupation. In almost all the major writing on the law of occupation, women and the relevance of gender analysis to understanding the limits of the law and the experience of living under occupation has been marginalized or entirely absent.  This project draws on the experiences of a number of sites of occupation, but is significantly directed at the experiences of women living under occupation in the Israeli-Palestine context.  Extensive fieldwork has been carried out in this site between 2011-2016, with additional fieldwork in Cyprus in 2016.  This project addresses the presence and absence of gender in the making, oversight and ending of occupations. The singular exclusion of women from most of the negotiation processes working towards a political settlement of the conflict, underscores the marginality of women’s presence in the conversations around conflict ending and transition. Even as it is valuable to note the absence of women from sites of negotiation, there is also danger in viewing the political settlement process and peace negotiations as the panacea for the range of challenges women have faced during occupation, many of which are likely to sustain in any ‘post-occupation’ reality. As Carol Smart has so aptly noted, there is the problem “of challenging a form of power without accepting its own terms of reference and hence losing the battle before it has begun”. This project, as with prior work seeks to simultaneously challenge and remediate the power frames of the Law of Armed Conflict.