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The maintenance of international peace and security heteronormativity

posted on 2017-01-01, 00:00 authored by Tamsin PaigeTamsin Paige
© 2018 Selection and editorial matter, Dianne Otto. Violence is a peculiar thing; it intrigues some people, horrifies others, and yet others just become numb to it from too much exposure. At an international level, the UN Security Council is gatekeeper to the use of lawful and legitimate violence under its mandate to maintain international peace and security. Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Council has the power to authorise the lawful use of force by states in response to a finding under article 39 of a ‘threat to the peace’, ‘breach of the peace’ or an ‘act of aggression’. It also has the capacity to levy sanctions and other similarly coercive measures through this power. Such authorisations, along with the right to self-defence, are the only exceptions to the prohibition of the use of force explicitly recognised by the UN Charter. More recently, in the context of the Council’s gender mainstreaming efforts through its ‘Women, Peace and Security’ agenda, the United Kingdom has suggested that systematic sexual violence, when employed as a tactic of war, should be considered a threat to the peace within the meaning of article 39, leading to authorisations of violence to combat the phenomena. However, the six resolutions adopted on the matter tell us that sexual violence as a ‘tactic of war’ does not constitute a threat to the peace, but they do not tell us why not.2 In this chapter, my goal is to explore why the Permanent Five members of the Security Council (P5) have taken this position. I will examine the justificatory discourse of the P5 found in public statements they have made about sexual violence in Council meetings.4 I will not be conducting an examination of the resolutions themselves, as this has already been aptly done by others.5 Rather, my analysis will study official statements made by each of the P5 in the course of adopting those resolutions. Before we proceed, it is worth noting that when considering the existence of a threat to the peace it has been well established that the Security Council possesses a discretion fettered only by the limits of jus cogens norms and the purposes and principles set out in Chapter I of the UN Charter.6 Inger Österdahl offers a succinct description of the limits faced by the Council: ‘Put in simple terms, the Security Council may basically decide or do anything it wishes and it will remain within the limits of the legal framework for its action.’7.


Title of book

Queering international law : possibilities, alliances, complicities, risks

Chapter number



91 - 109


Taylor & Francis

Place of publication

London, Eng.





Publication classification

B1.1 Book chapter




D Otto

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