Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict

Subject LAWS70461 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 7 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2016.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: The total class time is between 24 and 26 hours.
Total Time Commitment:

The pre-teaching period commences four weeks before the subject commencement date. From this time, students are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis and critique of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and to critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact the Disability Liaison Unit:


For more information:

Phone: +61 3 8344 6190

Subject Overview:

It is rare today to hear of an armed conflict in which there is not some discussion of the extent to which one or both sides of the conflict has engaged in sexual violence. Over the past 20 years, international NGOs and institutions alike have paid significant attention to sexual violence in conflict. They have attempted to address it through international humanitarian and criminal law, United Nations Security Council resolutions, and even international military intervention. This subject will critically consider the deployment of these various legal mechanisms to address sexual violence, and will consider some of the assumptions about sexual violence and international law that animate them. Because initially women’s human rights advocates were behind much of the advocacy, it will also consider the various views of feminism and gender that have become mainstreamed through their appeals to the strong arm of the State and of powerful international governmental alliances to bring an end to sexual violence. The lecturer, Professor Karen Engle has been academically engaged with these issues quite extensively over the past two decades.

Principal topics will include:

  • Historical regulation of rape by international humanitarian law
  • The history of the women’s human rights movement’s prioritisation of and engagement with the treatment of sexual violence in conflict
  • The mobilisation of the occurrence of sexual violence to call for various forms of international intervention
  • The international criminal legal treatment of sexual violence in conflict
  • How might international law and politics respond to the perception that sexual violence is inherently shameful?
Learning Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have a critical understanding of the international legal treatment of sexual violence in conflict.
  • Be able to assess the interplay between the legal regimes applicable to war-time violence more broadly, in particular human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law.
  • Have a highly developed understanding of the key theoretical and political debates among advocates and policy-makers with regard to the treatment of sexual violence in conflict, including among feminists.
  • Be able to assess some of the unintended consequences of the international legal treatment of sexual violence in conflict, and consider alternative creative and effective responses to the violations.
  • Class presentation (20%)
  • 8,000 word research paper (80%) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator
Prescribed Texts:

Core subject materials will be provided free of charge to all students. Some subjects require further texts to be purchased. Details regarding any prescribed texts will be provided prior to the commencement of the subject.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:

This subject has a quota of 30 students. Please refer to the website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

Related Course(s): Graduate Diploma in Human Rights Law
Graduate Diploma in International Law
Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies
Master of Human Rights Law
Master of Laws
Master of Public and International Law

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