International Law and Domestic Gender Justice: Why Case Studies Matter

37 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2011

See all articles by Catherine O'Rourke

Catherine O'Rourke

Ulster University - Transitional Justice Institute

Date Written: April 7, 2011


This paper reflects on the relationship of feminist-informed developments in international criminal law (ICL) to the gender outcomes of domestic processes of transitional justice. The paper identifies a distinct critical-reflective turn in feminist scholarship in international criminal law, and offers a four-way typology of these more recent feminist critiques of ICL, namely: ICL as legally deficient; ICL as sexualizing and infantilizing women; ICL as silencing individual women and women’s movements more broadly; and feminist engagement with ICL as hegemonic and imperialist. The paper notes the move in feminist ICL scholarship away from a concern with the impact of ICL norms on domestic cases of transition. The paper then draws on the Chilean case in order to consider the impact of evolving international legal norms on the official recognition of harms experienced by women under the dictatorship. I argue that attention to the impact of international legal norms on domestic instances of transition might go some way to re-grounding feminist critical-reflective scholarship of ICL, moving away from more abstract critiques at the international level, to applied critiques at the domestic level of gender and transitional justice. Moreover, attending to the domestic impact of international legal norms might provide grounds for greater optimism in the evaluation of the feminist-informed changes in ICL over the past decade and a half.

Keywords: Gender, International law

Suggested Citation

O'Rourke, Catherine, International Law and Domestic Gender Justice: Why Case Studies Matter (April 7, 2011). Transitional Justice Institute Research Paper No. 11-04. Available at SSRN: or

Catherine O'Rourke (Contact Author)

Ulster University - Transitional Justice Institute ( email )

Shore Road
Newtownabbey, County Antrim BT37 OQB
Northern Ireland

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