Strengthening Advocacy in Women's Human Rights and International Justice


The Crime of Forced Pregnancy

The Women's Caucus for Gender Justice views the establishment of a just, effective and independent International Criminal Court, with the capacity to end impunity for the serious crimes against women and men, as an historic opportunity. Our participation is informed by the experience of the many women survivors of these atrocities who have not received justice. It is our firm belief that the creation of a permanent ICC that addresses crimes against women is urgent.

The Women's Caucus is concerned with the efforts of some groups to insert the issue of abortion into these negotiations through attacking the inclusion of forced pregnancy in the statute. The effort to link the crime of forced pregnancy to the issue of abortion ignores that forced pregnancy is a violent crime, committed with a violent intent, and it causes extreme suffering for the victim. It is clearly a crime of commission, not a crime of omission.

It is difficult to understand how the debate about the crime of enforced pregnancy has become a debate about abortion. National laws which criminalize the termination of pregnancy are not violations under international law and thus would not come within the ICC's jurisdiction. The issue of abortion has no place in the current discussions about the crime of enforced pregnancy.

The term "forced pregnancy" has been repeatedly used in the UN system. The need for a particularly effective response to this crime is articulated, for example, in the documents adopted by consensus at the UN conferences in Vienna and Beijing. As recently as April, l998, the UN Commission on Human Rights reaffirmed that forced pregnancy is among the gravest violations of humanitarian and human rights law.

The most recent and publicised example of forced pregnancy occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where soldiers raped women until they became pregnant and then continued to imprison them.

Although not as well publicised, forced pregnancy occurred in Rwanda where thousands of women were raped and then bore children as a result of those rapes. This has caused terrible social upheaval.

Forced pregnancy also took place during the period of African-American slavery. Women held as slaves were forced to bear children and were subjected to torture, beatings and other forms of coercion and deprivation if they did not. Some but not all of these pregnancies were the result of rape.

It is crucial that this conference recognize, punish and deter the future commision of this terrible crime of violence against women. Therefore, the crime of forced pregnancy must be listed as both a war crime and a crime against humanity.

We urge you to recognize and support the condemnation of this crime by the international community and to ensure accountability for this egregious crime against women and children.

ICC - Rome

26 June 1998