SOAS University of London

School of Law

Sheri A. Labenski

BA in Philosophy (Canisius College), Certificate of Women’s Studies (Canisius College), MA in International Human Rights Law (The American University in Cairo), Graduate Diploma in Gender and Women’s Studies (The American University in Cairo)
  • Overview
  • Teaching
  • Research

Overview

Sheri Labenski
School of Law

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Centre for Gender Studies

Senior Teaching Fellow

Name:
Ms Sheri A. Labenski
Email address:
Building:
Senate House
Office No:
S129
Office Hours:
Friday 11:00-12:00 (email to arrange)
Thesis title:
Women and International Criminal Law from the Perspective of Female Perpetrators
Year of Study:
Third Year
Internal Supervisors

PhD Research

Women, in their fight to be seen as fully human, are constantly battling with the law. Even when laws are expanded to interpret acts of violence against women in a broader range, this still serves within the preset ideals of difference between men and women. Laws ‘favour’ women, but reinforce a male position. The work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Special Court for Sierra Leone, and the International Criminal Court, all uniquely and unanimously silence the breadth of women’s involvement in conflict, not to mention the disavowal of their sexual agency.

What is now necessary is to couple the previous critiques of law with a simultaneous correspondence of terror. This correspondence of terror is to afford women the notion of fear; to fear women, to see women as perpetrators and villains, then allows women the benefit of agency as well as the sense of control. It is not being suggested that women are never associated with negative connotations, being described as cunning, devious, and manipulative is not unheard of or out of the ordinary. Many would counter this argument, that women are not seen as villains, with examples of women’s cunning and intellectual deceptiveness. In literature there are many examples of women deploying these less than desirable characters, but what is being suggesting is a step away from these manipulative descriptions and a move to prioritize the importance of terror, as terror is something quite different. To be physically terrified of someone is an extremely different description entirely. To be considered to be so powerful that one fears one’s life, or fears bodily harm is a notion that now needs to be consistently associated with women. If this is achieved, a state where women are seen as physically dangerous, this not only balances the relations between men and women, but does so especially in times of conflict.

Rarely is the idea of women as powerful, physically harmful agents celebrated, possibly because rejoicing in the fact that women are dangerous creates a paradox of sorts. Even ‘feminists’ scarcely refer to women’s ‘lesser’ qualities, likely in fear that this could diminish the gains they have accomplished. It is hard to understand why there is such fear amongst people when describing the evils women do. If their argument is for a greater understanding and inclusion of women in all aspects of life, is it not equally important for women to been seen as naturally flawed, or to be put more precisely, as human? To say women are violent, women commit crimes, women are capable of physical harm is at odds with international criminal law and at odds with the comfortableness one has when one speaks of women. To acknowledge these ‘lesser’ qualities must be done in order to afford women the opportunity of being a powerful agent, one that bares no preset definition.

Publications

  • Forthcoming Book Chapter, ‘Female Perpetrators in The Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda: Disrupting Common Understandings‘ in Women and War, Intersentia.
  • 2015 Blog Post, ‘Feminist Approaches to International Law’, Réseau Olypme, Sciences Po Ecole de droit.
  • 2015 Book Review, ‘Joanne Conaghan: Law and Gender‘, Feminist Legal Studies, Springer.

Conferences

Papers Presented:

  • “Female Perpetrators in Armed Conflict: Dispelling Common Narratives”, at Droit et Limites Annual International Conference, Sciences Po, Paris, 18 June 2015.
  • “ICTR in Post Genocide Rwanda: The Importance of Narratives of Gender and Race“, at Symposium on Occupation, Transitional Justice, and Gender, Ulster University, Belfast, 8 May 2015.

Affiliations

  • Chamber Member/ Judge, Feminist International Judgments Project, Special Court of Sierra Leone, Prosecutor vs. Brima et. al.
  • Tutor with the Brilliant Club

Teaching

Research

International Criminal Law, Gender, International Human Rights Law, Sexual Violence, and Conflict