FIDH joins global movement to recognise gender apartheid as crime under international law

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On 23 March 2024, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) International Board – its body of elected human rights defenders from all over the world – adopted by a majority vote a resolution aligning the organisation with the global movement calling for the recognition of the crime of gender apartheid under international law.

Paris, 28 March 2024. Respectful of the relentless work initiated and conducted in recent years by feminists, scholars, and experts around the world, FIDH firmly believes it is time to expand the definition of "apartheid" to include situations in which the oppression is directed against a specific gender group or groups, as illustrated in Afghanistan for women and girls. FIDH also believes that gender apartheid is the most adequate crime to characterize situations of severe institutionalised and systematised discrimination.

Together with its member organisations, FIDH has long been engaged in the fight to promote accountability for victims of serious international crimes before national, regional, and international jurisdictions. Despite many obstacles along the way, successes have been achieved due to the evolution of laws and practices and to the progressive interpretation of the aging international legal corpus, including relating to sexual and gender-based violations. By adopting this resolution, FIDH emphasises the need to ensure that international law continues to evolve in the face of lived reality.

"The pervasive oppression, segregation and discrimination faced by women and girls in Afghanistan since the Taliban illegally returned to power in 2021 has awoken us to the fact that the current international laws are not sufficient to adequately describe situations of such gravity. The recognition of the crime of gender apartheid would fill a gap in international law, and contribute to greater accountability for perpetrators", said FIDH Vice-President and Executive Director of OPEN ASIA | Armanshahr Guissou Jahangiri.

FIDH welcomes the fact that situations of discrimination against members of a certain gender, in particular women, girls and LGBTIQ+ persons, are being prosecuted under international law, in particular under the crime against humanity of gender-based persecution. However, gender-based persecution and other existing crimes do not sufficiently reflect situations where perpetrators establish a pervasive and institutionalised regime of oppression and discrimination with the specific intent to maintain it.

" For victims to have a chance at justice, for perpetrators to be held accountable, there must be a crime which truly reflects the gravity and singularity of situations which feature the elements of gender apartheid . Our decision to align ourselves with the movement to codify gender apartheid as a new crime under international law recognises the lived experiences of the victims and survivors and the need to adapt international law", said FIDH President Alice Mogwe.

The FIDH resolution comes at a critical time, with important discussions currently being held on the draft Convention on Crimes against Humanity, which represents a key and timely opportunity to codify the crime of gender apartheid. FIDH hopes that more stakeholders will align with and support the important movement in favour of the recognition of such crime.

Until the crime of gender apartheid is included and defined in international law, FIDH remains committed to using all currently available legal tools to bring justice to victims all over the world, and endorses the following proposed definition of gender apartheid: "The crime of apartheid means inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1 [of Article 2 of the draft Convention on Crimes against Humanity], committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups, or by one gender group over another gender group or groups, based on gender, and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime."

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