International Women's Day / #TimeisNow for gender equality and justice through ICC Rome Statute

Delia Chatoor, Former Legal Advisor, MFA Trinidad & Tobago to the 1998 Rome Conference. Pictured at the Coalition for the ICC Rome Statute 20 Launch Forum, The Hague, 16 Feb 2018. © CICC/Filippo Maria Ciriani
In this year of celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute, International Women’s Day reminds us of the great strides that were made in strengthening women’s rights when the Rome Statute was adopted.  

As one of the first international treaties to extensively address crimes against women as crimes against humanity, war crimes and, in some cases, genocide, the Rome Statute created a permanent legal framework that gives victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based crimes continued reason to hope.

“International Women’s Day is an occasion to celebrate accomplishments and advancements for women’s rights, but it is also a time to recognize that much work remains to be done, especially regarding sexual and gender-based violence during conflict,” said Jelena Pia Comella, deputy executive director of the Coalition for the ICC. “The Rome Statute, with its special gender-related provisions, is an important tool for holding perpetrators of such crimes accountable. By ratifying and implementing the Statute—criminalizing sexual and gender-based violence—states can move closer to ending the commission of sexual and gender-based crimes during conflicts. We call upon all states to do so as quickly as possible.”

The Statute also created a standard for international justice when it comes to protection for victims and witnesses (especially victims of sexual and gender-based crimes), gender balance on its judicial bench and among its elected officials, and other provisions such as requiring that relevant Court organs have staff with expertise in gender issues.

"Today is a day to honor those victims of sexual and gender-based violence who have come forward to speak out," said Melinda Reed, Executive Director, Womens’ Initiatives for Gender Justice, "Today is a day to stand up for those who were unable to speak out.  Today is a day to hold the international community and ourselves accountable to end sexual and gender-based violence during conflicts.  The time is now. " 

Moreover, the Rome Statute’s catalytic effect at the national level means that if a state ratifies the Statute and incorporates, for example, its far-reaching SGBV provisions into domestic legislation, these crimes can be prosecuted by national courts. There is real potential here 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.

Accountability for sexual violence in the Rome Statute  

Meet the female activists breaking the mold 

RemEMbering Oby Nwankwo: a pioneer of African, global and gender justice


The advances created by the Rome Statute on women’s rights and gender justice can be seen in developments at the Court this week.

Today, Thursday 8 March, three groundbreaking ICC Appeals Chamber judgments will be handed down. Two of those, judgements on reparations in the Al-Madhi case (Mali) and in the Katanga case (DRC), will cement the Court’s jurisprudence on reparations, and by that its effect on women victimized by ICC crimes. The reading out of the judgements can be followed live on the Court’s home page

Tomorrow, Friday 9 March, six new judges of the ICC will be sworn in. Five of these Judges are women.

“On this International Women’s Day, I wish to send my warmest wishes to all women across the globe, especially those working or related to the world of justice. I want to call on all women to firmly believe in the equality of men and women - as I strongly do -, indeed, on gender equality, which is, after all, equality in rights and opportunities. I want to call on all women to never tolerate neither violence nor discrimination against us, and to never stop dreaming nor working towards reaching your goals…WE CAN DO IT,” said Luz Del Carmen Ibáñez, ICC judge-elect.

The Coalition’s campaign on the judicial elections in 2017 insisted on an increased presence of women judges at the ICC.

“This year, the celebration of International Women’s Day has particular resonance in the international justice context, coming as does the day before five female judges will be sworn in at the ICC. Leading up to this occasion, the Coalition had conducted an extensive campaign calling on states to nominate qualified female candidates, in particular, to ensure  fair gender representation on the ICC bench,” Kirsten Meersschaert, director of programs, Coalition for the ICC. “Having balanced gender representation on the ICC bench is not only conducive, but essential to ensuring more representative justice.”

Watch the videos of the Coalition’s Panel Discussion

Read the responses of the new ICC judges to the Coalition’s questionnaires 

Why gender balance matters on the judicial bench

Inspiration to advance the rights of women 

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