SOAS University of London

Centre for Gender Studies

Gender, Armed Conflict and International Law

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 1

This course, which runs in term 1, offers an introduction to legal reforms and strategies in response to understandings of the relationship between war and gender as well as feminist peace studies. Contemporary institutional take up of ‘gender perspectives’ are studied alongside theoretical and empirical accounts of the gendered experience of war and armed conflict. Some study of post-conflict communities is also discussed. The collective security regime, particularly Security Council initiatives on women, peace and security are analysed alongside debates from feminist and gender theorists.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • To further research on the relationship between gender and violence/armed conflict through a teaching and learning experience that connects this to feminist legal approaches to regulating armed conflict.
  • To encourage students to research and analyse the relationship between social constructions of gender identity and conceptions of war and peace.
  • To build the analytical skills of students, through encouraging writing that has both theoretical claims and substantive legal claims.
  • To encourage gender studies research that looks beyond 'women's issues' so as to analyse the role larger social, political and legal conditions play in perpetuating gender based discrimination and harms.
  • To provide an introduction into legal responses to war and armed conflict under international law of specific relevance to Asian and African scholars and communities.

At the end of the course, a student should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the themes, issues and debates on the role and impact of gender on war, armed conflict and post-conflict communities;
  • identify and compare different feminist approaches to legal reform;
  • critically assess the materials and themes explored in the course;
  • to describe feminist histories in terms of theoretical developments and in terms of legal outcomes relevant to the course themes;
  • to analyse the consequences of legal reforms that focus on women's rights in conflict situations, situating this knowledge with an awareness of broader political and legal approaches;
  • to formulate and evidence an argument on the relationship between gender, war, peace and law.


Students are required to attend a two-hour weekly seminar.

Scope and syllabus

Weeks 1-5 connect understandings of violence, gender and law through an analysis of interdisciplinary approaches. The weeks 7-11 apply this knowledge to contemporary legal responses to topical issues in conflict and security.

A representative syllabus is indicated below.

  1. The gendering of violence in the law
  2. Feminist peace studies
  3. Gender mainstreaming
  4. State, sovereignty, women’s participation
  5. Feminist methods, legal writing and narratives on conflict
  6. Reading week
  7. Feminist action and international institutions
  8. Humanitarianism and the use of force to ‘save’ others
  9. Sexual violence during armed conflict
  10. Collective Security – beyond resolution 1325
  11. Feminist Responses to International Terrorism

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: 100% coursework (one essay of 6,000 words) at the end of the course.  This coursework may be resubmitted.  Students will also be asked to submit some formative assessment during the course.

Suggested reading

  • Barnet, Introduction to Feminist Jurisprudence, Cavendish, 1999
  • Bergoffen, D., ‘Toward a Politic of the Vulnerable Body,’ 18 (1), Hypatia, (2003), 116
  • Braidotti, ‘The Exile, The Nomad and The Migrant: Reflections on International Feminism’ 15 (1) Women’s Studies International Forum (1992) 7
  • Charlesworth, ‘Not Waving but Drowning: Gender Mainstreaming and Human Rights in the United Nations’ 18 Harvard Human Rights Journal (2005) 18
  • Charlesworth and Chinkin, The Boundaries of International Law, Manchester, 2000
  • Chinkin, C., ‘The Legality of NATO’s Action in the Former Yugoslavia (FRY) under International Law’, 49 (4), International and Comparative Law Quarterly, (2000), 910
  • Chinkin, C., ‘Women’s International Tribunal on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery’ 95 American Journal of international Law
  • Cohn, C., ‘Sex and Death and the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals’, 12 (4) Signs, (1987) 687
  • Engle, ‘ “Calling in the Troops” The Uneasy Relationship among Women’s Rights, Human Rights and Humanitarian Intervention,’ 20, Harvard Human Rights Journal, (2007), 189
  • Engle, K., ‘International Human Rights and feminism: When Discourses Meet’ 13 Michigan Journal of International Law, (1991-2) 517
  • Halley, ‘Rape at Rome: Feminist Interventions in the Criminalization of Sex-Related Violence in Positive International Criminal Law’, 30 Michigan Journal of International Law, (2008), 1
  • Heathcote, International Law on the Use of Force: A Feminist Analysis, Rouledge 2011
  • Hill, F., ‘Women’s Contribution to Conflict Prevention, Early Warning and Disarmament’ Disarmament Forum, 2003
  • Kandiyoti, D., ‘Between the Hammer and the Anvil: Post-conflict Reconstruction, Islam and Women’s Rights’, 28, Third World Quarterly, (2007) 503
  • Knop, Re/Statements: feminism and state sovereignty in international Law’ 3 Transnational law and Contemporary Problems (1993) 293
  • Nesiah, V., From Berlin to Bonn to Baghdad: A Space for Infinite Justice, 17 HARV. HUM. RTS. J. 75 (2004).
  • Nowrojee, B., ‘ “Your Justice is Too Slow” : Will the ICTR fail Rwanda’s Rape Victims’ in Pankhurst (ed), Gendered Peace,(London: Routledge, 2007)
  • Orford, A., ‘Muscular Humanitarianism: Reading the Narratives of the New Interventionism’, 10 (4) EJIL, (1999), 679
  • Orford, A., Reading Humanitarian Interventions, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)
  • Otto, Dianne, ‘The Exile of Inclusion: Reflections on Gender Issues in International Law Over the Last Decade ‘ 10 (1) Melbourne Journal of International Law (2009)
  • Otto, ‘A Sign of “Weakness”? Disrupting Gender Certainties in the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325’ 13 Michigan Journal of Gender and Law, (2006) 113
  • Stark, ‘What we Talk about When We Talk About War’ 32 Stanford Journal of International Law, (1996) 91
  • Stark,’ Nurturing Rights: An Essay on Women, Peace and International Human Rights’, 13 Michigan Journal of International Law, (1991-2) 144
  • Marguerite R. Waller and Jennifer Rycenga, eds. Frontline Feminisms : Women, War, and Resistance (New York: Garland, 2000)(republished in paperback by Routledge, 2001)
  • Vlachová and Biason (eds.), Women in an Insecure World, DCAH, 2005


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules