Working across Feminist Faultlines and The Gender 360 Project

The GHJP has been involved for years in efforts to promote understandings of gender in international law responsive to the comprehensive and contextual range of experiences across genders, and intersectional structures of marginalization including across gender, race, place, (dis)ability, and poverty. This work aims both to ensure that all forms of gendered harm are made visible, and to empower coalitions and solidarity in human rights work to address these harms.

In 2016, GHJP co-director Alice M. Miller, alongside other human rights advocates and experts, penned an open letter on Why the U.N. Needs a Broad Concept of Gender to Ensure Universal Protection of Human Rights. Written in the context of discussions occurring at the Human Rights Council (HRC) addressing sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, the letter provides recommendations, as well as underlying rationale and implications, to promote universality and to ensure that no experience of gender-based human rights violations is neglected. The letter underscores that groups working at the intersections between gender and rights, including those concerned with intersex, trans*, gay, lesbian and women’s rights, have experience, knowledge, analytic frames and documentation of gendered human rights violations which all need to inform the HRC’s work on gender identity and expression.

In 2020 and 2021, GHJP co-director Alice M. Miller participated in workshops convened by the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program exploring the concept of indirect discrimination (or practices with discriminatory impact) on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in a comparative and cross-disciplinary manner. Miller contributed a working paper examining how the ways that we identify, define and document harms to sexual rights through criminal law tend to open or close the possibilities for coalitions and joint advocacy work among related but not identically situated sexual and gender rights groups. In a second working paper (co-authored with Jessica Tueller) for the 2021 workshop focusing on the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Miller and Tueller center health and a health justice approach, and how it enables the identification of law-associated discriminations as both a cause and a consequence of ill-health, and reveals potential and pitfalls for justice work because of the ways health encompasses so many distinct processes at the individual body, intra- and inter-personal, and institutional level.

Since 2020, the GHJP, CREA, IWRAW-AP, RESURJ, and Amnesty International, have come together to discuss and engage as a global working group in collaborative advocacy around ‘faultlines’ (contested themes) within feminist movements related to human rights and criminal law. Our work responds to specific moments when these faultlines find expression in the international space, and seeks to open up discussion on the most rights-promoting relationship between criminal law and human rights, with a focus on issues arising around gender, using the principles and practices of feminist and intersectional analysis, and informed by global south-based perspectives on international law. Faultines among feminist movements include positions on sex workers’ rights, identifying and distinguishing ages for sexual consent and age of marriage,  and responding to trafficking and gender-based violence. 

GHJP, CREA, IWRAW-AP, RESURJ, and Amnesty International made a joint submission to the UN Special Rapporteur in Violence Against Women in 2020 as part of the call for input for consideration in the thematic report on Rape as a grave, systematic and widespread human rights violation, a crime and a manifestation of gender-based violence against women and girls, and its prevention, presented to the UN General Assembly during its 47th session in 2021.

Our submission reaffirmed states’ responsibility to address sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) as a grave and systematic human rights violation, but recommended that the report use a broader analytical frame that situates penal reform within more comprehensive approaches to combat SGBV, beyond prosecution and punishment. While the SRVAW rightly sought to further elucidate states’ obligations to “prosecute and punish,” we delineated in the submission how this focus could be more effective if criminal law responses were critically monitored for cynical over-use; racist impacts; and explicitly linked  to protecting the rights of everyone affected by the criminal law, with a strong focus on  state due diligence obligations to prevent, remedy and redress SGBV.

The GHJP is also working with collaborating organizations globally on what we call The ‘Gender 360’ Project. This project seeks to advance both an analytic framework and a mode of action, particularly salient within health and human rights, for understanding gender as a complex, contextual and relational set of ideas and governance structures producing roles and rules about the masculine and the feminine. We underscore that gender analysis and advocacy can generate new coalitions and synergies between queer, LGBTQ and women’s rights advocates across borders and in intergovernmental fora, if it is attentive to how gender operates as a key variable across many different systems of power.

In 2022, the GHJP with CREA and Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters developed a joint submission to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (OTP), as part of its public consultation on a new policy initiative to advance accountability for Gender Persecution under the Rome Statute. This submission sought to call the attention of the OTP to the value of comprehensive gender analysis across race, age, place, religion and disability, among key axes of investion to understand the conditions and systems that give rise to crimes and help ensure that fact-finding, evidence collection, case construction and prosecution does not neglect already marginalized groups facing gender persecution. We explored the importance of thinking beyond the two-sex binary, engaging relational gender dynamics and stereotypical masculinity, and paying attention to non-sexual gender persecution, and the distinct but linked regulatory systems of gender, sexed bodies, and sexuality. We also called for critical reflection on the use (and potential for abuse) of criminal law in overall rights promotion, highlighting a role for the creative engagement of the OTP’s policy of positive complementarity, including as it influences normative developments in national standards.


Why the U.N. Needs a Broad Concept of Gender to Ensure Universal Protection of Human Rights

Alice M. Miller, Indirect discrimination: turning a regressive space into a site for coalitional action (Working Paper, 2020)

Alice M. Miller and Jessica Tueller, with contributions from Jaime Todd-Gher and Payal Shah, Notes on a theme: Indirect discrimination on bases including sexual orientation and gender identity in the context of health and in light of commitments to cross-movement solidarity (Working Paper, 2021)

CREA, Amnesty International, RESURJ, IWRAW-AP, GHJP. Joint Submission to UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Thematic report on “Rape as a Grave and Systematic Human Rights Violation and Gender-based Violence Against Women” (2020).

Submission to ICC OTP on gender persecution under the Rome Statute

Protecting the Health and Rights of Sex Workers in the U.S. and Globally