The Rome Statute was adopted on July 17, 1998 by the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court. The Rome Statute established what crimes are shall be recognized as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression, and outlined the procedures and policies to be followed in the operationalization of the ICC.
The ICC went into effect in 2002 in the Hague, and has the authority to try individuals as war criminals in signatory states. It has jurisdiction over crimes committed in these states’ territories or by their nationals, only where the state is unable or unwilling to carry out the investigation or prosecution of perpetrators.
During the period when the Rome Statute was being developed, activist women, mostly lawyers, from around the world formed the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice to monitor and influence the outcome of the Statute. Due to the work of the Caucus, the ICC was one of the first international institutions that incorporated a gender perspective from its inception, which meant, among other things, that a quota for women judges was established and the crimes to be prosecuted included forced pregnancy, rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, enforced sterilization, and other forms of sexual violence. The work of the Caucus was institutionalized in the founding of the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice based in the Hague, which continues to monitor and work for a feminist gendered perspective in the proceedings of the ICC.