Representation on the International Bench
Gina Heathcote

Beyond Formal Participation: Intersectionality by Design

Gina Heathcote
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Gender law reforms, across multiple jurisdictions and forms of law, tend to employ liberal feminist models to address the lack of diversity in institutions and decision-making bodies. Liberal feminist methods include guarantees of formal equality, quotas, and other schemes for ‘counting the women’. In addressing strategies for responding to the lack of diversity in judicial appointments to international courts and tribunals I argue for a shift beyond liberal feminist agendas for inclusion. I demonstrate a need for three normative shifts to re-think gender law reform addressing diversity on the international bench.
Following Charlesworth, the first normative shift requires a recognition of the method-message confusion in gender law reform, and thus attention to feminist methods to implement feminist messages. This inscribes the subsequent normative shifts from liberal (and radical) feminist modes of gender law reform towards incorporation of postcolonial legal feminist approaches and, drawing on US critical race feminisms, attention to intersectionality. The former, postcolonial feminisms, calls into question the historical role of gender law reform in colonisation, constructions of race, morality, and standards of civilisation, that need to be actively unravelled in international legal strategies for gender justice. The latter, intersectionality, should be regarded as providing the tools for seeing gender quotas and formal equality advances as a first interruption into international institutions that is incomplete without further interruptions to intersectional privileges that remain embedded in judicial appointments. As such, I demonstrate the need for a shift from feminist messages fixated on the lack of inclusion of women toward a series of feminist methods that understand intersectional privilege as integral to the production of the status quo.

Gina Heathcote is a Professor of Gender Studies and International Law and Director of Research at School of Law, Gender, and Media of SOAS University of London. She is the author of The Law and the Use of Force: A Feminist Analysis (2013), Feminist Dialogues on International Law (2018) and co-editor of The Law of War and Peace: a Gender Analysis Vol. 1 (2020). Her book Feminist Dialogues on International Law is the first single-authored monograph on feminist approaches to international law.

This keynote is part of the workshop 'Rethinking Representation on the International Bench: Democracy, Inclusion, and Legitimacy'