16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence: Dr. Valerie Oosterveld on seeking justice for survivors

Topics: Manitoba, Winnipeg, International Humanitarian Law, English Blog Categories
Laura Ellis | December 08, 2022

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign is an annual international effort that begins on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and goes until Dec. 10, Human Rights Day. The campaign began as a means to speak up about gender-based violence, and to renew a commitment to ending violence against women, girls, and 2SLGBTQI+ individuals.

As part of our commitment to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and educating people about the realities of gender-based violence, the Canadian Red Cross hosted the Paul Buteux Memorial Lecture, Caught in Conflict: Seeking justice for survivors of gender-based crimes in war, in collaboration with the University of Manitoba and Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, earlier this year.

In this presentation, Dr. Valerie Oosterveld, Professor of Law and Associate Director of the Centre for Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction at the University of Western Ontario, unpacked the realities of seeking justice for survivors of gender-based crimes in war. She explained that for centuries, issues of gender-based violence were not considered as crimes in armed conflict situations. Thankfully, progress has been made in recent decades, and through international courts and tribunals, justice has been brought to victims and survivors.  

“It’s important for gender-based crimes to be prosecuted because, first of all, it allows victims to be recognized to be victims of a crime, as opposed to a side effect of armed conflict. Secondly, gender-based violence is often intertwined with all sorts of other crimes in armed conflict, and it helps recognize that gender-based crimes have taken place, helps explain the wider forms of victimization in conflict, and the depths of the harms that has been done to victims and survivors.”

Dr. Oosterveld became involved in this kind of work when the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was created in 1993 and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was created in 1994. She was involved in groups who were tracking progress of these courts and if they were seeking gender-sensitive forms of justice. The outcomes of these courts, which saw convictions in a variety of gender-based violent crimes, set the stage for the International Criminal Court to be able to do the same.

In Canada, more than four in 10 women have experienced some form of intimate partner violence. When asked what Canadians can do to learn more and get involved in combatting gender-based violence and conflict, Dr. Oosterveld suggested to start with looking at current international events.

“I think Canadians can educate themselves with what is happening at an international level with respect to gender-based crimes. The International Criminal Court helps to set international precedent that can be used in countries all over the world.”

The Canadian Red Cross holds a number of events across the country to help educate Canadians about the importance of IHL and to foster dialogue on contemporary challenges and debates. Look up past events, or find an upcoming event near you.
Section Widgets

First Aid and CPR courses in your area

Interested in taking a Red Cross First Aid or CPR course? Find a course in your community or online.

Find a course