Monday, September 10, 2012

Look On! Bent & need for LGBT protections

(Look On! takes occasional note of noteworthy productions)

In their book The Boundaries of International Law: A Feminist Analysis (2000), Australian National University Law Professor Hilary Charlesworth, an IntLawGrrls contributor, and London School of Economics Law Professor Christine Chinkin explain that one feminist methodology in the study of international law is to expose the silences of the international system.
Meanwhile, feminist scholars of international criminal law, such as IntLawGrrl Kelly D. Askin, have noted how the founding International Military Tribunals, at Nuremberg and Tokyo, 'silenced' gender crimes in the judgments and proceedings:
► In Nuremberg, none of the Nazi war criminals were charged with rape, sexual violence, or forced abortion, despite ample documentary evidence.
► In Tokyo, rape was charged as a crime against honour; however, the sexual slavery of the so-called 'comfort women' was excluded from the indictment.
This is now a relatively well known story within the study of international criminal justice. Concerted efforts, since the 1990s, to ensure that victims and survivors of gender violence are not silenced by international proceedings, culminated in the enumeration of a plethora of gender crimes in the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The Rome Statute is the first international treaty to use and define the word 'gender' – an achievement for feminist advocates and lawyers of international law. However, as the 1st Gender Advisor of the ICC, Professor Catharine A. MacKinnon, and others have noted, the definition of 'gender' in Article 7(3) excludes gay and lesbian persons. As some commentators have put it, the definition is heterosexist.
So why does this matter?
The film Bent (1997) serves as a good reminder of why the protection of gay and lesbian persons in international criminal justice is important. It also reminds us that the persecution of many different groups during the Holocaust is prone to 'silencing'.
Originally a play by Martin Sherman, the film, directed by Sean Mathias, tells the story of Max, a gay man sent to Dachau under the Nazi regime. His partner, Ralph, is murdered by the SS for wearing glasses. Max had chosen a yellow star instead of a pink star, preferring to be persecuted as a Jewish man instead of a gay man. During his time at the camp, he falls in love with Horst, another inmate, who wears a pink star. Members of the cast include Clive Owen, Mick Jagger, Sir Ian McKellen, and Jude Law.
The persecution of gay men during the Holocaust is a neglected topic in legal literature and in academia more generally. According to WikiPedia, Bent appeared amid a wave of works exploring the topic; together, they led to an apology from the German government and to the construction of monuments in the memory of gay men persecuted by the Nazi regime.
The play depicts some of the horrors faced by gay men, but also provides an allegory on themes of shame, pride, and freedom. Difficult to watch, but definitely to be recommended.

(Cross-posted at Human Rights Film Diary blog)

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