Gender inequality and sexual violence

The Rome Statute promotes gender equality through accountability for sexual and gender-based crimes.

Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a widespread weapon of war—witnessed in conflicts in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Darfur, Colombia, Iraq, and Syria, to name just a few. Marginalized and stigmatized, SGBV survivors often feel little hope of seeing their attackers brought to justice.

State and rebel forces alike have used SGBV to terrorize, to degrade, to punish communities, and to ethnically “cleanse.” Women and girls are usually the victims; but men and boys have also been targets and suffered. 

As one of the first international treaties to extensively address SGBV as crimes against humanity, war crimes and, in some cases, genocide, the Rome Statute creates a permanent legal framework that gives victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based crimes continued reason to hope. And with universal state membership, the Rome Statute will be able to bring even more victims and affected communities into the international justice fold.

The Rome Statute contributes to accountability and redress for SGBV through its catalytic effect at the national level. This means that if a state ratifies the Statute and incorporates its far-reaching SGBV provisions into domestic legislation, these crimes can be prosecuted by national courts. Many have argued the potential for such a shift in domestic legal culture to promote gender equality more broadly by strengthening women’s rights and increasing their access to justice.

And the ICC is doing its part. The Court handed down its first conviction for rape as a war crime and as a crime against humanity in March 2016 – against former Congolese rebel militia leader Jean-Pierre Bemba. By developing international jurisprudence on SGBV, the ICC is showing that sexual violence can no longer be treated as a collateral crime; helping destigmatize victims; and working to deter the future commission of such heinous acts.