Crimes Against Women Under International Law

2002 Riesenfeld Symposium

Time: March 28, 2002
Location: Boalt Hall.

Event Overview:
Over the last decade, gender-based crimes have received attention not only from human rights advocates, but also from academics, national policy-makers, the United Nations, and international criminal tribunals. Issues of rape as a weapon of war, sexual slavery, trafficking of persons across national boundaries, female genital mutilation, violence against women in the name of family honor, and gender-based economic and social discrimination have slowly appeared on the international agenda. These developments have been marked by promising breakthroughs, as well as demoralizing setbacks. The recent recognition of rape as a war crime by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) offers hope for justice by forcing perpetrators to account for such egregious acts of violence. At the same time, however, the atrocities inflicted by the Japanese military on more than 200,000 so-called “comfort women” during World War II have yet to be legally remedied.

Even in times of peace, crimes against women often go unpunished. The United Nations estimates that each year several million people are trafficked within and out of Asia and the former Soviet Union. The victims of this slave trade – mostly women and children – are the “products” in what is now a multimillion-dollar industry. In the Middle East, women endure not only severe economic and social discrimination, but also suffer from a system in which violence against women is often committed with impunity, in the name of family honor. Across the world, women continue to face the threat of culturally sanctioned domestic abuse, which has yet to be fully recognized as a valid “qualification” for receiving asylum in the United States.

The 2002 Symposium Edition featured articles by scholars, policy makers, and practitioners in the fields of international law, comparative law, human rights, criminal law, and feminist legal theory. It provided a forum for analysis of the legal, political, cultural, economic, and social forces that perpetuate such systems of violence against women, as well as remedies to address these crimes.

Following her Keynote address, Justice Louise Arbour was presented with the Stefan A. Riesenfeld Award for her outstanding contributions to the field of international law.