Feminist Responses to Conflict: Within, against and beyond the law

Grewal, Kiran K. 2021. Feminist Responses to Conflict: Within, against and beyond the law. In: Tarja Väyrynen; Swati Parashar; Élise Féron and Catia Cecilia Confortini, eds. Routledge Handbook of Feminist Peace Studies. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 70-79. ISBN 9780367109844 [Book Section]

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The rise in investment and interest in peacebuilding and post-conflict interventions since the 1990s has been well-documented (Orjuela, 2008, pp. 23–24; Nagy, 2008), as has the integral role that law has played in these interventions (Lundy and McGovern, 2008). While the field of transitional justice (TJ) has expanded beyond the very narrow legal scope of its initial definitions (Teitel, 2000), it remains true that law continues to be seen as an appropriate and important site for both responding to past violence and developing future peace. There is a general assumption that alongside liberal democratic institutions, the “Rule of Law” will by and large protect against further conflict and contribute to establishing peaceful societies (Nagy, 2008; Annan, 2004; for a criticism of these assumptions, see Ketola, this volume).
Moreover, feminist activists and scholars have seen these developments as holding potential for women (Eaton, 2004, p. 904; Maguire, 2009; Grewal, 2010). Since the 1990s, international feminist lawyers and legal scholars have both compellingly demonstrated the androcentrism of existing international law and worked hard to articulate and argue for new legal norms (Bunch, 1990; Charlesworth and Chinkin, 2000). Activists both internationally and within specific
affected contexts have pushed for accountability for war crimes and atrocities of a sexual and gendered nature. And gender has frequently been explicitly integrated into institutional reform initiatives in peacebuilding and TJ programmes (often in the form of both law reform and “gender training” for state actors and broader sections of the community). So, what has this engagement with law produced in terms of feminist peace agendas? In this chapter, I will reflect on the ways in which, both, law has been a means of undermining feminist aims and has provided a space that feminists may consider important and useful. I will then turn to thinking about how feminist initiatives for both responding to past violence and resisting violence in the future are taking a look, and indeed need to look, beyond the law. In particular, I both endorse and take up Jasmina Husanovic’s (2000) point that for genuine societal transformation to occur – in this case from societies scarred by violence towards those that might be considered “peaceful” – new imaginaries, discourses, and languages need to be articulated. These cannot come from within the law but rather require engagement with a broader range of socio-cultural frameworks and resources.

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Book Section


peace studies, transitional justice, feminist legal theory

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December 2019Accepted
11 March 2021Published

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Date Deposited:

09 Jul 2021 13:28

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09 Jul 2021 13:28



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