Shouldn’t sexual violence feature prominently in the indictments of war crimes tribunals? Isn’t widespread and systematic sexual violence a prominent feature of contemporary and historic warfare? Certainly. Are there other forms of gender-based violence against women (and men!) that occur in war ? Certainly! My book Sex and International Tribunals argues that there are, and it draws alternative narratives from the case law that disrupt the dominant narrative of gender-based violence solely as the mass rape of women. In the case of Sierra Leone, for example, the book presents the prosecution of sexual slavery as a gendered form of enslavement as a failed gender analysis. And relying on the work of anthropologists such as Mariane Ferme, Janneke van Gog, and Chris Coulter, the book also deconstructs the tribunal’s imaginings of early marriage in peacetime Africa and challenges the wisdom of the introduction of crimes such as forced marriage and forced pregnancy as crimes against humanity. A rigorous gender investigation into the elements of crimes such as enslavement and torture would adequately address, for example, the atrociously exploitative conditions of child conscription, labor and captivity in armed conflict.
One of the book’s conclusions is that the prosecution of wartime sexual violence in Africa has created a debasing narrative about the bodies of African women. The book’s gender and feminist legal critique disrupts assumptions of the impartiality of international justice and highlights the ways in which ruling elites conspire with international actors in erasing gender from the war narrative. Sex and International Tribunals introduces a timely discussion as transitional justice takes root as an integral pillar of postwar reconstruction in Africa and beyond. It is written for anyone who wants to do justice to gender justice.
Chiseche Salome Mibenge, Sex and International Tribunals: The Erasure of Gender from the War Narrative is published by University of Pennsylvania Press. It is available for pre-order at http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15147.html