Ensuring Global Accountability for Gender Persecution

Targeted abuse against women, girls, and LGBTQIA+ people of all genders is rarely documented when they happen, and perpetrators are hardly ever held accountable for these crimes. As a result, they are often excluded from consideration by international and domestic trials and, in effect, are left out of history.

These crimes can include incidents such as attacks on girls’ schools in Afghanistan, women tortured in Mali because their skirts are deemed too short, or people in Colombia subjected to sexual violence because they are perceived to identify as LGBTIQ+. In order to strengthen accountability for such crimes, MADRE and our grassroots partners are working together to increase understanding of the crime of gender persecution and pushing national and international authorities to hold perpetrators accountable.

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Policy Paper on Gender Persecution

Building on this history, in 2021, MADRE began its work as organizer of civil society engagement in the development of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Policy of the Crime of Gender Persecution.

In December of 2022, the ICC published the Policy Paper in a grounding breaking moment for gender justice. While gender persecution, as a crime against humanity, was included in the Rome Statute, its perpetrators went with impunity because of a lack of understanding of the gender discrimination and unequal treatment at the root of these crimes.

This Policy Paper strengthens recognition of gender persecution in investigations and legal proceedings, reaffirms the understanding of gender in international criminal law, and provides clarity on a topic overlooked for too long.

This moment reaffirms – once and for all – that targeting women and LGBTQIA+ persons in peacetime and conflict can amount to a crime against humanity, and that survivors of these crimes cannot be silenced.

Gender Persecution in Afghanistan

In 2023, MADRE, together with the Institute for Gender, Law, and Transformative Peace at CUNY School of Law, launched the report Gender Persecution in Afghanistan. This report provides in-depth analysis of the Taliban’s acts to deprive Afghans of fundamental rights on the basis of gender — acts that may amount to the crime against humanity of gender persecution. For example, the Taliban have routinely beaten, unlawfully arrested, held incommunicado, inhumanely treated, and tortured women who protest against discriminatory regulations, including the bans on girls’ education, women’s access to work, and dress regulations.

Issued as the first part of forthcoming analyses, this report focuses on deprivations of three rights: the right to education, assembly, and expression. It examines Taliban policies to deprive each of these fundamental rights on a discriminatory basis, and provides samples of crimes they committed. This includes events our partners have documented, such as targeting women human rights defenders with threats, violence, arbitrary arrest, and disappearance for exercising their right to assembly and protest. It also describes legal analysis and evidence demonstrating how these acts or crimes can amount to gender persecution.



MADRE created a manual for women and human rights defenders on documenting gender-based violence and rights violations so they can find justice and end the cycle of violence in their communities. We also produced a guide on leaving Afghanistan safely for those in the country facing life-threatening risks under the Taliban regime.

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