Intersectionality: Explaining SGBV Interlinked with Terrorism and Other International Crimes

Ana Martin

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Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is often intertwined with and nested within other violations of international criminal law (ICL) as part of a broader attack against a group. However, ICL is not giving enough visibility to this nexus of crimes rooted in the intersection of identities and discrimination that underpins SGBV during conflict. Intersectionality is a concept originated in feminism and progressively recognized by international human rights law (IHRL). It posits that SGBV is caused by gender ‘inextricably linked’ with other identities and factors that result in compounded discrimination and unique aggravated harms. Based on case studies, this paper argues that ICL should integrate an intersectional approach based on identity and discrimination to address the nexus between SGBV and broader international crimes. Intersectionality enables a better understanding of the causes, harms, and gravity of SGBV, and it provides consistency with an IHRL interpretation. The article begins setting out the foundations of intersectionality in feminism and IHRL, and its applicability to ICL. It then applies intersectionality to two case studies that demonstrate the interlink of SGBV with broader violations of ICL: The Revolutionary United Front Case (RUF) trial judgment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) concerning SGBV and the war crime committing acts of terrorism, and Al Hassan, prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC), concerning SGBV and the crime against humanity of persecution. It concludes with final remarks on why and how ICL would benefit from integrating an intersectional approach to SGBV.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-161
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Human Trafficking, Enslavement and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 4 Dec 2020


  • sexual and gender-based violence, intersectionality, terrorism, identity, discrimination


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