Responding to Sexual Violence: A Norm Transfer Perspective

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Crimes of sexual violence have received unprecedented global attention in the recent past. In the domestic context, there has been mass mobilisation against such violence and abuse in the form of #MeToo and legislative reforms, most notably in the area of sexual consent, across numerous jurisdictions. At the international level, sexual crimes have been recognised in international criminal courts and governments such as the United Kingdom and Luxemburg have committed to eliminating rape as a weapon of war. These parallels, in recognition and activism, are matched by parallels in the continuing prevalence of such violence in both contexts, despite apparent condemnation, and inadequate legal treatment.

While there is an emerging literature exploring these parallel challenges, there is still resistance to what Kelly has described as ‘a continuum approach…looking at the benefits of connecting work on sexual violence across contexts’. To counter this, this paper introduces the ‘feminist strategy of norm transfer’ which is evident in early feminist literature on international criminal law. According to this strategy, a key feminist motivation for entering the international criminal legal arena was to influence this developing body of law and bring progressive developments back to domestic contexts. This paper argues that rather than transposing legal development from one forum to the other, the significance of the feminist strategy of norm transfer lies in the conversations and dialogue it has the potential to provoke, the boundaries it challenges and the alliances between international and domestic activists it can create.
Period16 May 2019
Held atUniversity of Bristol, United Kingdom