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Megan Daigle, Sarah Martin, and Henri Myrttinen

Humanitarian, development and peacebuilding work has become increasingly dangerous in recent decades. The securitisation of aid has been critiqued, alongside the racialised and gendered dynamics of security provision for aid actors. What has received less attention is how a range of intersectional marginalisations – gender, racialisation, sexuality, nationality and disability – play out in constructions of security, danger and fear in aid deployments. Focusing on sexual harassment, abuse and violence as threats to safety and security, the article examines how in training and guidance for deployment to ‘the field’ (itself a problematically securitised notion), danger is projected onto sexualised and racialised ‘locals’, often overlooking the potentially far greater threat from colleagues. Here, we employ a review of security guidance, social media groups, interviews with aid staffers and reflections on our own experiences to explore how colonialist notions of security and ‘stranger danger’ play out in training. We argue that humanitarianism is still dominated by the romanticised figure of the white, male humanitarian worker – even if this problematic imaginary no longer reflects reality – and a space where those questioning exclusionary constructs of danger are quickly silenced and even ridiculed, even in the age of #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
‘Case history’ on violence against women, and against women’s rights to health and to reproductive health
Sara De Vido

The anamnesis, which in medical terms mainly consists in case history, provides a legal analysis of around 70 decisions taken by domestic and regional human rights courts, and UN treaty bodies, relevant for the two dimensions at the core of the book, the horizontal, ‘interpersonal’ dimension and the vertical, ‘state policies’ dimension. The first dimension includes cases on domestic violence, rape in peacetime and female genital mutilation. The second dimension explores cases on abortion, involuntary sterilisation, maternal health and emergency contraception. The chapter examines the decisions following three axes/questions: Who are the applicants? In which ways was women’s health relevant in the decision? What reparations, if any, were granted? The book does not aim to elaborate a database of jurisprudence but to reflect on legal issues arising from selected decisions to elaborate the concept of violence against women’s health in chapter 2.

in Violence against women’s health in international law
Open Access (free)
The prognosis
Sara De Vido

The prognosis is the final step in Hippocratic medicine. This chapter includes some final comments on the main findings of the analysis. First, it discusses what the book has achieved and encourages the reader to view the two dimensions as intersecting, and to transfer findings in the horizontal dimension to the vertical one and vice versa. In a second part, the chapter puts the main argument of the book to the test once more, asking whether, in the end, despite all the efforts, international law itself is not the ultimate cause of violence against women’s health. The conclusions answer the question whether the law can be both the cause of and the cure for the disease.

in Violence against women’s health in international law
Open Access (free)
A conceptualisation of violence against women’s health (VAWH)
Sara De Vido

This chapter conceptualises the innovative idea of violence against women’s health (VAWH). Like the concept of violence against women, violence against women’s health is not an autonomous idea in criminal law, but an ‘umbrella’ definition grasping two dimensions of violence, each characterised by specific, gender-based crimes or practices. The chapter first ‘constructs’ VAWH as a form of discrimination against women, of gender-based violence, a violation of the rights to health and to reproductive health, and as a concept that does not require the element of intent for its definition. In particular, it stresses the existence and the pervasiveness of patterns of discrimination (often intersectional discrimination) in the perpetration of VAWH. The chapter then distinguishes this idea from the traditional one of violence against women and enriches it to encompass limitation of women’s autonomy, construed using a human rights-based approach. In dealing with autonomy and consent, the chapter extends its reasoning to another practice, genital cosmetic surgery, which it compares to female genital mutilation.

in Violence against women’s health in international law
Open Access (free)
The narrative
Sara De Vido

The introduction provides the background of the research, the main argument and the methodology used throughout the book. It deconstructs the notion of violence against women as consolidated at the international level in order to grasp its main elements and explains why the choice of the rights to health and reproductive health is pivotal for the analysis. It then captures the relationship between violence against women on one hand, and the rights to health and reproductive health on the other, which constitutes the starting point of chapter 1. It argues that violation of the right to health is a consequence of violence, just as (state) health policies might be a cause of – or create the conditions for – violence against women. The chapter also illustrates the reason underlying the choice of the Hippocratic paradigm as backbone of the work and provides the structure of the following chapters.

in Violence against women’s health in international law
Open Access (free)
Reconceptualising states’ obligations in countering VAWH
Sara De Vido

This chapter aims to answer the question which obligations states must abide by with regard to VAWH? After analysing possible ways to pigeonhole states’ obligations, the chapter conducts legal analysis of obligations of result, due diligence obligations and obligations to progressively take steps. The strength of the chapter lies in the fact that both the horizontal and the vertical dimensions, as conceived in this book, can be unified while reconceptualising states’ obligations. Skirting temptation to argue that in the horizontal dimension positive obligations prevail, whereas negative obligations – plus some obligations of result – are present in the vertical dimension, the chapter provides examples of how, in all cases, states bear obligations of all three types that ‘specialise’ along the lines of the two dimensions explored. The starting point of the chapter is the law of state responsibility; it challenges the traditional categories of international law from a feminist law perspective.

in Violence against women’s health in international law
Author: Sara De Vido

The book explores the relationship between violence against women on one hand, and the rights to health and reproductive health on the other. It argues that violation of the right to health is a consequence of violence, and that (state) health policies might be a cause of – or create the conditions for – violence against women. It significantly contributes to feminist and international human rights legal scholarship by conceptualising a new ground-breaking idea, violence against women’s health (VAWH), using the Hippocratic paradigm as the backbone of the analysis. The two dimensions of violence at the core of the book – the horizontal, ‘interpersonal’ dimension and the vertical ‘state policies’ dimension – are investigated through around 70 decisions of domestic, regional and international judicial or quasi-judicial bodies (the anamnesis). The concept of VAWH, drawn from the anamnesis, enriches the traditional concept of violence against women with a human rights-based approach to autonomy and a reflection on the pervasiveness of patterns of discrimination (diagnosis). VAWH as theorised in the book allows the reconceptualisation of states’ obligations in an innovative way, by identifying for both dimensions obligations of result, due diligence obligations, and obligations to progressively take steps (treatment). The book eventually asks whether it is not international law itself that is the ultimate cause of VAWH (prognosis).

Bert Ingelaere

The gacaca process was introduced in Rwandan society to deal with the legacy of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi. Empirically informed research points to the ambiguous and ambivalent attitudes of participants regarding testimonial activities, namely the search for the truth. Hence the questions: what does the gacaca experience reveal about this elusive and multidimensional notion called ‘the truth’? And, what does ‘the truth’ as experienced by Rwandans reveal about the nature of the gacaca process? This article aims to answer these questions by identifying and qualifying the different styles of truth at work in the gacaca process, namely the forensic truth, the moral truth, the effectual truth and, the Truth-with-a-Capital-T. The first is a consequence of the design of the court system, the second is derived from the socio-cultural context, the third is a consequence of the decentralised milieu in which the gacaca courts were inserted, the fourth is the result of the overall political context in which the gacaca activities took place. This process of assembling these different styles of truths is conceptualised through the notion of agencement that captures the intricate interplay of agency and structure, contingency and structuration, change and organisation shaping the gacaca process.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Marie-Luce Desgrandchamps, Lasse Heerten, Arua Oko Omaka, Kevin O'Sullivan, and Bertrand Taithe

This roundtable took place on 16 January 2020, at the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the war in Biafra. It brought together Marie-Luce Desgrandchamps, Lasse Heerten, Arua Oko Omaka and Kevin O’Sullivan. The roundtable was organised and chaired by Bertrand Taithe, University of Manchester.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Hakim Khaldi

How can we go about our work of saving lives when, in Syria, civilians, the wounded and their families, medical personnel and aid workers are all targets – whether in areas controlled by the government or those held by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or various rebel groups with diverging political agendas? Over the course of several field missions, the author of this article, a member of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), sought to decipher the political and military engagements undertaken in different regions of Syria during the war years. He also factored into his analysis the endless flow of data, information and positioning being produced and published over this period, because the war was also fought every day on the internet where the representatives and ideologists of warring groups, human rights organisations, Syrian diaspora organisations and spokespersons of the Syrian central authorities were and still are a permanent presence. Drawing on all these observations and data, the author relates and analyses the emergency relief activities carried out by MSF in Syria, how these activities evolved and the conditions in which choices to intervene and decisions to withdraw were taken.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs