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There’s A New Proposed Crimes Against Humanity Treaty: But Where is the Input by Women’s and LGBTIQ Rights Activists?



New York—A new international treaty is in the works, focusing on crimes against humanity such as massacres, torture, and rape. However, the draft treaty adopts an opaque definition of gender, that would give some governments an excuse to ignore persecution of women and LGBTIQ people. Most civil society groups are unaware of the treaty and have not weighed in. Today, activists are launching a campaign calling on the international community to affirm our understanding of discrimination, including when based on sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics.

In Iraq, accused ISIS fighters are being prosecuted with unprecedented speed, with some sentencing hearings lasting just seven minutes, and zero consideration given to the anti-gay or gender-based crimes the fighters committed. The new crimes against humanity treaty would give LGBTIQ and women’s rights activists a historic opportunity to fight against hate-related crimes during armed conflict. For this reason, MADRE, an international women’s rights organization and OutRight Action International, a global LGBTIQ rights organization, have joined forces with lawyers at CUNY School of Law’s Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic to challenge the treaty.

Civil society has until December 1, 2018 to provide input on the draft treaty. As part of their campaign, MADRE, OutRight, and CUNY Law have launched a new toolkit that provides activists with concrete ways to make their voices heard before the deadline.

“We have real-world conflict situations, including those featuring hardline militias like ISIS, where women and LGBTIQ persons, are being persecuted because of their gender,” said Lisa Davis, Associate Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law and MADRE Senior Legal Advisor. “The new treaty could help bring these perpetrators to justice. However, a treaty that adopts an opaque definition of gender could result in even greater impunity.”

“There is a dearth of jurisprudence on LGBTIQ rights under international criminal law. This means that when LGBTIQ people are targeted in times of war and conflict, we lack the tools to hold perpetrators accountable and deliver justice to survivors,” said Jessica Stern, Executive Director of Outright Action International. “What we do now could determine how we protect LGBTIQ people for generations to come.”

The campaign will continue throughout the fall with convenings with civil society groups and legal experts to make as many activists as possible aware of the ramifications of the treaty and encourage them to take action to make their voices heard.


September 17, 2018