Review Essay of Rethinking Rape Law: International and Comparative Perspectives. Edited by Clare Mcglynn and Vanessa Munro (New York, N.Y.: Routledge, 2010).

Journal of International Law and International Relations, vol.10, pp. 31-43.

15 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2015 Last revised: 18 Jan 2015

See all articles by Hilmi Zawati

Hilmi Zawati

Centre for International Accountability and Justice (CIAJ).

Date Written: Winter 2014


Since the first reports on gender-based crimes committed during the Yugoslav dissolution war of 1992-1995 and the Rwandan genocidal war between April and July 1994, feminist legal scholars have produced hundreds of scholarly and journalistic works on rape and other forms of sexual violence committed either in peacetime or in conflict situations. New to this body of scholarly literature addressing the legal treatment of rape in the statutory laws of international criminal tribunals, in international and regional human rights treaties, and in a wide range of different domestic penal laws, is this thought-provoking work, edited by Clare McGlynn, professor of law at Durham University, and Vanessa E. Munro, professor of socio-legal studies at the University of Nottingham. The work under review started life as a collection of papers submitted to an international conference marking the 10th anniversary of the landmark judgement of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in the case of Jean-Paul Akayesu, where he was convicted, inter alia, for rape as an act of genocide. This milestone judgement constituted a triumph for feminist legal scholars and activists. It was also a turning point for the international justice system, in general, and for the jurisprudence of the international criminal tribunals, in particular.

The editors maintain in their introduction that the aim of this work is to provide the reader with a cross-cultural perspective and a critical evaluation of the latest developments in rape laws embodied in the statutory laws of international, regional, and domestic judicial bodies. Comprised of 22 concise chapters, the work is arranged thematically under four corresponding principal ideas: the theoretical complexities of responding to the wrongs of rape; the relationship between feminist activism and legal reform; the limits of law reform in bringing about social change; and finally, the secondary victimization of rape complainants during the criminal investigation and trial process. Moreover, the editors provide in their introduction a meticulous analysis of these themes and underline the need for a progressive reform of rape law, including reconceptualizing and criminalizing rape in international and domestic laws. Examining feminists’ debates and struggles at the national, regional, and international levels to protect victims and ensure their right to sexual and bodily integrity, they elucidate feminists’ responses to the wrongs of rape, their struggle for legal reform within international and national legal systems, and the challenges that prevent law reform from bringing about real changes.

Overall, this book constitutes essential reading in view of its examination of the provisions of domestic and international criminal laws and for its exploration of the similarities and variances between rape in time of peace and in wartime settings. Moreover, by analysing and investigating different fundamental concepts in rape law, it brings together divergent perspectives of leading legal scholars from across the world on international criminal law, international human rights law, and domestic criminal justice systems, thereby moving the rape law reform agenda forward and ensuring appropriate justice for both victims and perpetrators. It is a remarkable, comprehensive work that should be read by legal scholars, jurists, actors in the criminal justice system, law students at all levels, and by those looking to deepen their understanding of the multiple tensions inherent in the shifting legal landscape of rape crime.

Keywords: Rape Laws; Wartime Sexual Violence; International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; Jean-Paul Akayesu Judgement; Gender-Based Crimes; Rape as an Act of Genocide; Clare McGlynn; Vanessa E. Munro; Law Reform; Rape in a Cross-Cultural Perspective

Suggested Citation

Zawati, Hilmi, Review Essay of Rethinking Rape Law: International and Comparative Perspectives. Edited by Clare Mcglynn and Vanessa Munro (New York, N.Y.: Routledge, 2010). (Winter 2014). Journal of International Law and International Relations, vol.10, pp. 31-43., Available at SSRN:

Hilmi Zawati (Contact Author)

Centre for International Accountability and Justice (CIAJ). ( email )

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