Join us in our fight to end impunity for sexual violence by defining “an act of sexual nature”

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is the first international criminal law instrument to expressly include crimes of sexual violence. It recognises “rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity” as crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as sexual violence as a constitutive act of genocide. Twenty years since the adoption of the Rome Statute, there has been limited accountability for conflict-related sexual violence in both the International Criminal Court and in national courts. Relevant case-law reveal a lack of clarity about what makes violence sexual, and a disparity between how sexual violence is deliberated in courts and how it is perceived and experienced by victims. 

In essence, the Rome Statute does not define the term “sexual violence”, nor does it provide examples of acts which might be captured by the residual crime of “any other form of sexual violence”. Jurisprudence highlights the need for a working definition of “acts of a sexual nature”. 

A call to action

We are calling for civil society actors to join us in creating a definition of sexual violence to guide prosecutors, defence counsel, victims’ representatives, and other judicial actors to better understand what an “act of a sexual nature” could entail. Importantly, such a definition would consider acts that may be intended as sexual by perpetrators, and/or perceived as such by victims in specific cultural environments.  The goal is to draft and adopt the civil society declaration, and guide advocacy actions for its use. Further actions may include formally presenting the civil society declaration to the ICC, and in the longer term, potentially incorporate this working definition into the Elements of Crimes of the Rome Statute.

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Have a look at the blog post written about our event on defining sexual violence during the 17th session of the Assembly of State Parties to the ICC on 10th December 2018.