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Strengthening Accountability for Gender Persecution:

A timeline of MADRE’s work to include civil society voices in the new Policy Paper on Gender Persecution

The International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has published its new Policy Paper on the crime against humanity of gender persecution – a groundbreaking moment for gender justice. The 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 LGBTIQ+ persons in peacetime and conflict can amount to a crime against humanity, and that survivors of these crimes cannot be silenced.

The Policy Paper provides a powerful tool for women’s and LGBTIQ+ rights activists as they work to dismantle oppressive, discriminatory gender narratives and build sustainable peace. Gender persecution is a category of crime within international criminal law that includes grave crimes such as murder and torture and, importantly, recognizes a perpetrator’s intent to discriminate against a group based on their gender. With a better understanding of the forms of gender persecution and the discrimination that underlies these crimes, we can strengthen work to support victims and end cycles of gender-based violence in communities across the globe. This Policy Paper represents a crucial step in that process.

Building on our long history of fighting for accountability for gender-based crimes within international law frameworks, MADRE served as the secretariat for civil society engagement in the development process. Below is the timeline of events chronicling our efforts to date.

December 2021 - Launch Event with ICC Prosecutor

In conjunction with the annual Assembly of State Parties, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor and the Embassy of Sweden in The Hague co-sponsored a virtual panel event to announce the development of the new policy paper on gender persecution. The Ambassador of Sweden to the Netherlands opened the event, followed by remarks from the ICC Prosecutor, Karim A. A. Khan, who shared the purpose of the initiative and his office’s firm support for advancing accountability for this crime. The panelists included four Special Advisors to the Prosecutor on the topics of: gender persecution, crimes against and affecting children, sexual violence in conflict, and slavery crimes, and was moderated by the Special Advisor on International Law Discourse. The speakers explored different forms of gender-driven discriminatory crimes across a range of geographic, cultural, and political contexts. MADRE spoke on the panel about the importance of civil society participation in the drafting of the policy paper, a top priority shared by the Office of the Prosecutor. Finally, the panel discussed next steps towards developing the policy paper and how comments may be submitted for the initial draft. Government representatives, legal experts, and civil society members from across the world attended the panel discussion, highlighting the global reach of this initiative and its impact.

Photo of the entrance of the International Criminal Court.
December 2021 - OutSummit Panel

At OutRight Action International’s annual OutSummit, MADRE brought together a panel of experts to discuss the new policy paper initiative and how LGBTIQ civil society groups could join the consultation process by writing their own submissions or by signing OutRight’s open letter. The panelists discussed various examples of crimes that may constitute gender persecution that affect LGBTIQ people, and the need to address and understand such crimes when they take place.

Logo for the OutSummit. Text reads: OutSummit. Pushing the Boundaries for Global LGBTIQ Activism.
March 16, 2022 - Commission on the Status of Women Side Event

On March 16, 2022, MADRE hosted a panel on the margins of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to discuss accountability for gender-based crimes, with a particular focus on gender persecution. The panelists discussed the legal charge of gender persecution and the different forms it can take in various contexts around the globe, focusing on Afghanistan and Colombia and LGBTIQ communities. The panelists also discussed the ICC policy paper initiative to advance accountability for gender persecution, how it could positively impact their work, and the crucial role civil society can play to inform the draft.

Thumbnail image for panel event — Fighting Against Impunity for Gender-Based Crimes: A Policy Paper on Gender Persecution
March 18, 2022 - First Consultation Submissions to the Office of the Prosecutor

Serving as the secretariat for civil society participation in the call for submissions, MADRE, along with our partners, facilitated submissions from nearly 400 organizations and 150 activists from over 100 countries and territories, as well as UN Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts, UN agencies and governments, for the first public consultation for the new policy initiative on gender persecution. These calls were then compiled into an open letter and submitted to the Office of the Prosecutor. Submissions included a contribution from 84 Afghan women and Afghan civil society members, 10 Iraqi civil society organizations, and our partner the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI). A number of other academic institutions, feminist legal scholars, and organizations with which we work further made their own contributions, such as OutRight Action International and our local partner in Colombia, Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN).

New Delhi, India-Aug 24 2021: Afghan women shouting slogans, Afghans living in India gathered at UNHCR to protest and demanding to be given refugee status in India.
May 2022 - Experts Workshop in The Hague

In collaboration with UN Women, the Human Rights and Gender Justice (HRGJ) Clinic at CUNY School of Law, and the Grotius Center for International Legal Studies at Leiden Law School and MADRE convened international experts and scholars in The Hague to discuss current trends in the discourse gender-based crimes amounting to persecution. Serving in its role as civil society secretariat, MADRE brought together the group of experts to analyze the elements of gender persecution as provided by the Rome Statute, discuss the successes and challenges in determining gender persecution charges, and provide recommendations for the policy paper. This convening complements the input from civil society, governments, and experts submitted in the public consultation, and continues MADRE's facilitation of holistic input on the development of the policy paper.

September 2022 - UN LGBTI Core Group Briefing

On September 28, 2022, MADRE partner OutRight International organized a briefing for the UN LGBTI Core Group, a group of UN Member States, to discuss the policy paper, the importance of state contributions to the policy’s development, and how states could engage with the process. The event was co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Colombia, Costa Rica, and the United Kingdom. Civil society speakers emphasized the importance of the policy paper and the inclusion of grassroots voices in the development process.

October 2022 - Experts Workshop in Leiden

MADRE participated in a convening of international experts and scholars brought together by the Institute for Gender, Law and Transformative Peace Initiative at CUNY School of Law and the Grotius Center for International Legal Studies at Leiden Law School. Experts discussed the understanding of gender and sexual and gender-based violence under the Rome Statute and provided recommendations for the final stages of development of the policy paper. The convening, held at Leiden University in The Netherlands, complemented the input from civil society, governments, and experts submitted during the public consultation, and builds on previous experts meetings.

October 2022 - Group of 7 Meeting

During the October 2022 meeting of the Group of 7 (G7) gender equality ministers in Berlin, government representatives called attention to gender persecution and noted the topic as an important issue for the G7. This recognition stems from the work of MADRE and our partners to advocate for deeper understanding of and accountability for gender persecution in conflict and atrocities across the globe, and builds on the G7’s recent joint communiqué that included strong recognition of the rights of women, girls, LGBTIQ persons, and other marginalized groups. Alongside the October G7 meeting, the Women7 (W7) elected MADRE’s Senior Legal Adviser as an advisor focusing on accountability mechanisms.

November 2022 - Workshop with Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace

MADRE convened members of Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz, or JEP) to discuss how the mechanism can ensure accountability for gender and ethnic persecution committed during Colombia’s conflict. The JEP, Colombia’s main judicial mechanism for securing justice for conflict crimes, is in a position to ensure recognition for the discrimination underlying many acts of conflict violence. Over 60 JEP judicial actors attended the training, which was organized with the Institute for Gender, Law and Transformative Peace Initiative at the CUNY School of Law. MADRE emphasized the link between the JEP’s decision to charge armed actors with gender persecution and the development of the new ICC policy paper on gender persecution – two historic precedents for gender justice with global implications. The JEP has an opportunity to apply gender and ethnic persecution analyses in the development of its new macro cases, including those on sexual and gender-based violence and on crimes committed against and Afro-descendant and Indigenous Peoples. 

November 2022 - First Draft of the Policy Paper

The ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor has released the first draft of the Policy Paper, marking a significant milestone in the groundbreaking initiative to strengthen accountability for gender persecution. The draft incorporates the input and contributions of nearly 400 organizations and 150 activists from over 100 countries and territories, as well as UN Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts, UN agencies, and governments. This draft reaffirms existing international law to assist States Parties in their efforts to prevent, punish, and protect against sexual and gender-based crimes, and sends the message that such violence is unacceptable, that it will not occur with impunity, and that all survivors’ rights will be upheld. The OTP has opened a final consultation period through November 23 before launching the final policy paper in December at the Assembly of States Parties.

December 2022 - Launch of New Policy Paper

On December 7, 2022, in The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) published its new Policy Paper on the crime against humanity of gender persecution – a groundbreaking moment for gender justice. The OTP launched the Policy Paper at a panel event co-sponsored by the governments of Colombia, Canada, and Sweden alongside the annual Assembly of States Parties in The Hague, The Netherlands. The UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity moderated the panel, and speakers included ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan; the Special Advisers to the ICC Prosecutor on Gender Persecution, Slavery Crimes, Crimes Against and Affecting Children; and the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan. Speakers celebrated the historic moment, as well as the unique participatory approach that enabled input from affected communities throughout the development of the policy.