Is the Responsibility to Protect doctrine gender-neutral?

Susan Harris-Rimmer

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Is the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine gender-neutral? Is this the right question? Instead, should we measure if this doctrine contributes materially or theoretically to the feminist goal of gender equality; or is the doctrine flawed in its design and could its implementation cause or exacerbate harm to women and girls involved in conflict? What would the R2P doctrine mean to the terrified women and girls seeking refuge at the UN compound as described above? In 2010, Australian jurist Hilary Charlesworth published a seminal article entitled ‘Feminist Reflections on the Responsibility to Protect’ in the lead journal Global Responsibility to Protect. At that juncture, she found that it was ‘worth engaging with concepts such as the Responsibility to Protect because they can unsettle the standard boundaries of the discipline and increase the possibility of its transformation’ but that the design of the R2P doctrine has been ‘influenced by men's lives and the dominance of masculine modes of reasoning'. In 2010, this article was one of very few examples of feminist engagement with the R2P doctrine, with almost no engagement in the reverse direction from R2P scholars. It built in turn upon a pivotal UN INSTRAW report in 2006. I review international developments from 2009 to 2014 to re-examine this proposition and view R2P through a variety of feminist reactions. Based on this analysis, I argue that the experience of armed and societal conflict is gendered, which has been plainly accepted by the Security Council in relation to the women, peace and security agenda. Therefore, R2P cannot claim nor should it pretend gender-neutrality in its response to conflict, and if it does, or simply ignores gender issues or continually relegates women to the category of ‘vulnerable populations’, its proponents risk losing credibility. In 2010, Charlesworth's analysis was that the doctrine in fact offers ‘gendered and racialised accounts of peace and conflict and the capacity of intervention to defuse violence’.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationTheorising the Responsibility to Protect
    Editors R Thakur, W.Maley
    Place of PublicationCambridge, United Kingdom
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    ISBN (Print)9781107041073
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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