When it was adopted in 1998, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) represented a significant breakthrough regarding sexual and gender-based crimes—crimes that, for centuries, had proliferated in armed conflicts but had been disregarded, mischaracterized, or misunderstood as the inevitable by-products of war or a legitimate part of its spoils. Not only did the Rome Statute explicitly treat a broad range of sexual acts as crimes against humanity and war crimes, but it also recognized gender-based violence as a crime and incorporated a number of provisions aimed at ensuring greater institutional attention to sexual and gender-based crimes. However, abstract possibilities do not always translate into concrete results, and the ICC has been slow to effectuate its innovative statutory provisions. This essay will explore some of the obstacles encountered and opportunities missed by the Court over the last twenty years, as well as highlighting welcome strides made in recent years to fulfill, at least in part, the promise of Rome.
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