A critical assessment: Can Export Processing Zones be transformed into catalytic enclaves for Women’s Economic Empowerment?

In 2011, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) partnered with the World Bank Gender Action Plan and the Government of Canada to publish a study positing the rather novel idea that Special Economic Zones (SEZs – more commonly known as Export Processing Zones or EPZs) might serve as a vehicle for women’s economic empowerment.

The study, entitled Fostering Women’s Economic Empowerment Through Special Economic Zones, provides a comparative analysis of SEZs in eight countries (Bangladesh, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, El Salvador, Jordan, Kenya and the Philippines) and discusses different SEZ initiatives (as well as opportunities and obstacles) that have been developed to contribute to the economic empowerment of women.  The IFC argues that SEZs can contribute to women’s economic empowerment through three dimensions:  (1) fair employment and working conditions; (2) equal access to opportunities for professional investment; and (3) extension of investment opportunities for women.

My recent working paper, A critical assessment:  Can Export Processing Zones be transformed into catalytic enclaves for Women’s Economic Empowerment, considers this novel idea from an international employment and women’s rights perspective.

The idea that EPZs might be utilized as instruments to improve working women’s lives is counter-intuitive.   EPZs have a reputation for sub-standard working conditions and exploitation because they are frequently exempted from local labor laws and other workplace protections.  They are also considered to be a sub-optimal economic development mechanism by the OECD and others.  On the other hand, the IFC’s study points to a number of examples of innovative programs that can be adopted by EPZ administrators – and contains enough frank analysis of obstacles to using EPZ governance structures to empower women – to make its recommendations worth considering.

After assessing the IFC’s idea in light of recent literature discussing the challenges facing workers in EPZs, I come to a somewhat guardedly optimistic conclusion that SEZs and EPZs might serve as a vehicle for policies and programs designed to empower women – but only if EPZ administrators and policy makers change attitudes about independent trade unions and work in partnership with workers, representative trade unions and women’s rights organizations.

Introducing Tequila Brooks

T Brooks Photo It’s our great pleasure today to introduce Tequila Brooks as an IntLawGrrls contributor. Tequila is an attorney and international employment policy specialist in Washington, DC. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in International Trade and Working Women’s Rights at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. She has an LL.M. in International Labor and Social Security Law from Tilburg University, an LL.M. in International and Comparative Law from the George Washington University in Washington, DC, a Certificate in International Human Rights Law from Oxford University and a J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law.

Tequila served as Labor Law Advisor with the North American Commission for Labor Cooperation from 1999 to 2004 and is co-author of NAFTA and the NAALC: Twenty Years of North American Trade-Labour Linkage (Lance Compa and Tequila Brooks, Wolters Kluwer 2015). Her forthcoming article in the Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal discusses how and whether labor provisions in U.S. and Canadian free trade agreements can be used to improve working women’s lives.

Her first post will assess an idea posited by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) that export processing zones can be used as vehicles for women’s economic empowerment. Heartfelt welcome!

Write On! Call for Papers: The Center on Applied Feminism at the University of Baltimore School of Law & Wisconsin International Law Journal

 

APPLIED FEMINISM AND INTERSECTIONALITY: EXAMINING LAW THROUGH THE LENS OF MULTIPLE IDENTITIES

The Center on Applied Feminism at the University of Baltimore School of Law seeks paper proposals for the Tenth Anniversary of the Feminist Legal Theory Conference.  We hope you will join us for this exciting celebration on March 30-31, 2017. 

This year, the conference will explore how intersecting identities inform — or should inform — feminist legal theory and justice-oriented legal practice, legal systems, legal policy, and legal activism. Beginning in 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw identified the need for law to recognize persons as representing multiple intersecting identities, not only one identity (such as female) to the exclusion of another (such as African American). Intersectionality theory unmasks how social systems oppress people in different ways.  While its origins are in exploring the intersection of race and gender, intersectionality theory now encompasses all intersecting identities including religion, ethnicity, citizenship, class, disability, and sexual orientation. Today, intersectionality theory is an important part of the Black Lives Matter and #SayHerName movements. For more information, seehttps://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2015/09/24/why-intersectionality-cant-wait/.

We seek submissions of papers that focus on the topic of applied feminism and intersecting identities.  This conference aims to explore the following questions: What impact has intersectionality theory had on feminist legal theory?  How has it changed law and social policy? How does intersectionality help us understand and challenge different forms of oppression?  What is its transformative potential? What legal challenges are best suited to an intersectionality approach? How has intersectionality theory changed over time and where might it go in the future

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Introducing OLYMPE’s first collective book: “Féminisme(s) et droit international” (2016)

feminisme-s-et-droit-international-cover

A few months ago, OLYMPE, the network for francophone feminist studies in international law and relations, published its first collective opus. Entitled Féminisme(s) et droit international. Études du réseau Olympe (Éd. de la Société de Législation Comparée), this volume brings together, under the co-direction of Emmanuelle Tourme Jouannet, Laurence Burgorgue-Larsen, Horatia Muir Watt and Hélène Ruiz Fabri, 14 chapters providing a valuable first overview of the state of feminist research in international law and international relations in French. All in all, a great addition to the critical canon of international law in French. As an important side note, OLYMPE is already preparing a call for a second volume on LGBTQIA/Queer approaches to international law. Said call should be issued in a few issues; stay tuned!

To order the book…

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Introducing OLYMPE: Francophone Feminist Approaches to IL represent!

P1100700There is obviously no better place than the IntLawGrrls blog to introduce to the anglophone world the first research network for francophone feminist studies in international law, OLYMPE, and its recent first collective publication, released in March, Féminisme(s) et droit international. Études du réseau Olympe.

Founded in January 2014, OLYMPE is a research network gathering more than 80 scholars and practitioners with an interest in feminist approaches to international law in French. Thought broadly, OLYMPE aims at promoting transdisciplinary feminist, gender, LGBTQIA and queer studies in international law (and international relations) in the francophone world where, by contrast to the anglophone world, they are still unknown and institutionally underdeveloped, if not inexistent. Named after Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793), a prominent French feminist figure who used the law as a tool for activism, the network pursues a number of objectives through various events, research publications and scientific watch and diffusion. OLYMPE seeks to introduce feminist approaches to international law and international relations in the francophone world and engage in a critical discussion of it using the abundant francophone feminist tradition in order to contribute to new developments in the field, in French and in English. It also actively fosters an inclusive approach to gender at the normative and institutional levels in international law in order to reinforce social and economic equality of individuals notwithstanding their gender identity or sexual orientation: it therefore promotes gender as an explicit and inescapable element of international policy-making. Aware of the limits and obstacles generated by “gender mainstreaming”, OLYMPE wishes through its activities to question the global dimensions of what is nowadays called feminist governance. Last but not least, OLYMPE is an institutional platform around which a network of scholars, practitioners and any other professionals interested in those issues can organize in order to contribute to the implementation of the objectives listed above.

As the coordinator of OLYMPE, it is therefore my very pleasure to give you a first introduction to the network and its activities in the hope that you join it or share its existence around you (website; facebook). While being a francophone network, its members do not have to be French-speaking to join (although it might help as we do share some information in French); all in all, an interest in French-speaking feminist research in international law (and relations) suffices! OLYMPE is happy to relay any information regarding future conferences or calls in English or any other language, as long as it is related to feminist/women’s/gender/lgbtqia/queer studies in international law (and relations). To become a member or for any other query or communication, please feel free to get in touch with me via email (berenice.schramm@graduateinstitute.ch).

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Introducing Bérénice K. Schramm

Bérénice K._SchrammIt’s our great pleasure today to introduce Bérénice K. Schramm as an IntLawGrrls contributor. Bérénice is a Swiss National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow. Currently based at SOAS’ Centre for Gender Studies (London, UK), she will soon move to the Centre d’études sur le droit international et la mondialisation at UQÀM (Montreal, Canada). As an epistemologist of law, her research focuses on postcolonial feminist approaches to interpretation and teaching in international law, two areas where concrete and human-driven changes can take place.

Prior to this, Bérénice earned her PhD in international law from the Graduate Institute of International Studies and Development (IHEID, Geneva) and also worked as a junior lawyer at the ILO Administrative Tribunal. Perfectly bilingual, she carries research both in English and French, trying to bridge and cross-fertilize postcolonial feminist analysis in international law in both linguistic and cultural areas. As part of her attempt to contribute and promote critical, and in particular, postcolonial feminist research in international law in French, still lagging by contrast to its state of development in the English-speaking world, she has taken an active part in founding and now coordinating OLYMPE, the first research network and program for francophone feminist approaches to international law.

Her first posts will introduce the OLYMPE network and its first collective publication. Heartfelt welcome!

Sexual and gender-based violence under the Geneva Conventions: A New Commentary

The 1949 Geneva Conventions, A Commentary (A. Clapham, P. Gaeta, M. Sassòli, Eds. OUP, October 2015), is a mammoth effort to update the interpretation of the Conventions to take account of the significant developments in international law, especially international human rights and international criminal law, since the ICRC published Jean Pictet’s edited commentaries* in the middle of last century.

As the editors point out, since Pictet’s commentaries were published the international legal landscape has dramatically shifted. For one thing, the 1949 Conventions have been universally ratified and their application interpreted in hundreds of cases. International human rights law (IHRL) has developed enormously since the 1960s and its intersection with IHL is more commonly acknowledged. Recently concluded human rights treaties expressly address their application to situations of armed conflict (e.g., Istanbul Convention on violence against women; Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities). International criminal law has become something of a growth industry since the 1990’s when the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) were established with jurisdiction over IHL violations.

Since Pictet’s day, the worldview of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and IHL has also radically changed. Due to the persistence of feminists over many decades, there is greater awareness of the prevalence of SGBV during armed conflict and a growing intolerance of it as an inevitable part of war. There have been numerous convictions for SGBV crimes as a violation of IHL (e.g., at ICTY, ICTR and ICC). In this context, SGBV has also evolved from its arcane conception in the Conventions as an attack against the honour of a female person, focussed on forced sexual intercourse, to encompass a wide range of acts against the sexual integrity of a person of any gender.

Patricia Viseur-Sellers and I wrote the chapter on protections from rape and other sexual violence and we start from the principle that humane treatment, the fundamental tenet of the Conventions regime, prohibits these acts against any person in every circumstance. We look in detail at Article 27, Fourth GC on civilians as the only article in the Conventions to refer expressly to sexual violence. It requires that female civilians “be protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, forced prostitution and indecent assault”.

None of these terms are defined in the Conventions. We examine each one drawing on a range of sources, including international jurisprudence where available (e.g., Nuremberg, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, the ICTY and ICTR), the Rome Statute and Elements of Crimes of the ICC, as well as leading critical feminist analysis, especially the work of J. Gardam & M. Jarvis in Women, Armed Conflict and International Law (Kluwer, 2001).

Much of the discussion focuses on a critical assessment of the imprecise and out-dated approach in Article 27(2) that protects women from sexual assault as “attacks on their honour” rather than against their person and sexual integrity. We agree with Gardam and Jarvis that IHL is a “thoroughly gendered system” and that equating female honour with chastity and modesty mischaracterises sexualised violence and perpetuates the discriminatory gender stereotype which sees women’s honour as belonging to her family and community, especially its male members. We point out that it also perpetuates the myth that sexual violence, especially rape, can only be committed against females. Continue reading

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