By: Rachael Andrews

Dr. Maryann Gallagher, lecturer in the department of international affairs, is using her courses on gender and international affairs to inform her research on international courts. In her article, “Engendering Justice: Women and the Prosecution of Sexual Violence in International Criminal Courts,” in the International Feminist Journal of Politics, co-authored with Dr. Deepa Prakash at DePauw University, as well as former SPIA undergraduate student Zoe Li, Gallagher examines the effects of gender norms on the prosecution of sexual violence in the international court system. 

In her course titled “Women in World Politics,” Gallagher shows a documentary called I Came to Testify about a group of women who testified against Dragoljub Kunarac, Zoran Vuković and Radomir Kovač, commanders of Bosnian Serb armed forces in the early 1990s. The women detailed personal accounts of the torture, rape, and enslavement of women by Bosnian Serb forces in the town of Foca. The defendants were prosecuted on charges of rape and sexual enslavement as torture, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in a landmark ruling for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). 

Her class discussions centered around the role of women during wartime and how gendered crimes can be used as methods of genocide and ethnic cleansing. What caught Gallagher’s attention, however, was how gender may inform the prosecution of these crimes in the international courts. 

“Through teaching this course, it became clear to me that there had been quite a lot of research done about the role of women in non-governmental organizations and as part of victims rights advocacy organizations, as well as the judges’s gender with regard to prosecution of sexual violence in international courts,” Gallagher says. “But [there was] almost nothing about the prosecutors themselves.”

In the documentary, women on the prosecution team played an important role in the first cases of the ICTY to prosecute rape during war.

“It made me curious about the role of women as prosecutors,” Gallagher describes. “Prosecutors act as gatekeepers because they decide what crimes to charge and who gets charged in a court of law. Judges can only hand down a verdict based on the charges that prosecutors bring forth.”

Through interviews done at The Hague, Netherlands, Li and Gallagher found that the gender makeup of prosecution mattered, but not as much as the gendered workplace norms. 

Workplace norms, like working long and arduous hours, make it difficult for women to meet the gendered expectations of both their work and the “second shift” in the home, raising children; expectations that their male counterparts do not experience. In fact, female interviewees stated that it was normal for women to transition from the more unpredictable and demanding trials division to the more structured appeals division.

Additionally, they found there were differences in pay and recognition. Those who are considered “gender investigators,” who most often have a human rights or gender studies background, are paid less, have less credibility, and experience a lower rank than the other investigators. However, in many cases, survivors of sexual violence would only speak to gender investigators, most of whom are women.

“There is a lot of literature that states that the presence of women changes institutions, so we would anticipate to see that the presence of women on trial teams automatically meant that there would be more prosecution of sexual violence,” Gallagher adds. “The data is spotty because trial teams change so much, but we did have anecdotal evidence from people who had been present during the trials of the ICTY and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda who said that women were the ones who survivors felt most comfortable talking to and who addressed the sexual violence in the courts.”

In this case, the qualitative analysis gives tentative support that the presence of women on trial teams increases the prosecution of sexual violence, but more data needs to be gathered, the authors determined. 

“Presence of women on trial teams is impacted by the institutional norms of the international courts,” Gallagher explains. “The international criminal court system is seeking to change this expectation that female prosecutors charge more sexual violence crimes than male prosecutors.” 

In 2014, the International Criminal Courts (ICC) adopted the Gender Policy, which was intended to integrate a gender perspective and analysis into all areas of the ICC’s work. This was specifically a response to the concern that only women in the courts were expected to take sexual violence cases seriously. As a consequence of the ICC’s Gender Policy, investigators must ask about sexual violence and gendered aspects of violence of all crimes.

Gallagher concludes, “The policy is meant to emphasize that it is not the sole responsibility of women to investigate sexual violence and gender-based violence, but rather a responsibility of the courts as a whole.”

For the full article, click here.