368 Seryon Lee
As a result of enthusiastic studies and practices of legal feminism for the past
all the major human rights treaties since 1945 have recognized gender
equality before the law. However, it was not until the 1990s that the issues concerning
violence against women featured seriously on the agenda of the international
Although belated, such enlightenment is partially due to the atrocities
committed against women in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the early 1990s.
It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the article on “Feminist Approaches
to International Law”
by three eminent international law scholars marked the
beginning of vigorous feminist analyses in international law. Thereafter, it paved the
way for active ‘feminist’ engagement, particularly within the context of international
law for the past two decades.
This article contends that “international law is a gendered system,” which
marginalizes women’s interests in a privileged, virtually men’s world.
then, different feminist inquiries into international law have generated notable
achievements, especially in the protection of international human rights. However,
feminist discussion seems to occupy a niche area, as Charlesworth acknowledged,
so that the feminist debate may have yet attracted little engagement from the
She persuasively points out that masculinity has been
any “masculinist perspective on international law.”
Moreover, it is fairly regrettable
to note that “when women appear in the international sphere they are either playing
the male role like Margaret Thatcher or are the quintessential victim in need of male
In other words, the key to feminist debate lies in the fact that women
1 In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft had already advocated for the women’s right to be educated in her classic book, A
VindicAtion of the Rights of WomAn. Women’s suffrage movement prevailed throughout the nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries. N. Lacey, Feminist Legal Theory and the Rights of Women, in gendeR And humAn Rights 13-14
(K. Knop ed., 2004).
2 A. edWARds, Violence AgAinst Women: undeR inteRnAtionAl humAn Rights lAW 7 (2011).
3 H. Charlesworth, Christine Chinkin and Shelly Wright, Feminist Approaches to International Law, 85 Am. J. int’l l.
4 Id. at 614-615.
5 H. Charlesworth, Talking to Ourselves: Should International Lawyers Take a break from Feminist? in feminist
PeRsPectiVes on contemPoRARy inteRnAtionAl lAW 17 (S. Kouyo & Z. Pearson eds., 2011).
6 H. Charlesworth, Feminist Ambivalence about International Law, 11 int’l legAl theoRy 1 (2005).
7 R. Saloom, A Feminist Inquiry into International Law and International Relations, 12 RogeR WilliAms u. l. ReV.
169 (2006). E.g., women are portrayed more or less as victims in number of international instrument including the