Consent, coercive circumstances and (imbalances of) power: lessons from international criminal law

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Debates on whether the legal definition of rape should focus on the presence of coercion or the absence of consent have featured in both international and domestic criminal contexts. Although international human rights law has sought to clarify the relationship between the two approaches, by emphasising the central role of consent within each, often the literature presents these approaches in oppositional terms. In light of this, some scholars have attempted to emphasis the supplementary nature of the models and produce more ‘plural’ conceptions of rape encompassing elements of consent and elements of coercion or, to borrow language from international criminal law, ‘coercive circumstances’. In the domestic context questions then arise as to what is meant by ‘coercive circumstances’ and how this legal concept should apply to ordinary peacetime settings. This paper seeks to develop a broader understanding of ‘coercive circumstances’ by engaging with cases from international criminal law that have sought to delineate the parameters of the concept. This analysis will be enriched by engaging with literature that has explored how power and trust (and abuses thereof) operate in the context of rape. The paper will conclude by underlining the importance of thinking beyond dichotomies and connecting conversations on rape and sexual violence across international and domestic contexts to draw out shared challenges as well as the lessons that can be learned.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew directions in sexual violence scholarship: law, power and change
EditorsKate Gleeson, Yvette Russell
ISBN (Electronic)9781003379331
ISBN (Print)9781032051468
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2023


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