Truly humanitarian intervention: considering just causes and methods in a feminist cosmopolitan frame

Journal of Global Ethics 9 (3):359-375 (2013)
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Abstract

In international law, ‘humanitarian intervention’ refers to the use of military force by one nation or group of nations to stop genocide or other gross human rights violations in another sovereign nation. If humanitarian intervention is conceived as military in nature, it makes sense that only the most horrible, massive, and violent violations of human rights can justify intervention. Yet, that leaves many serious evils beyond the scope of legal intervention. In particular, violations of women's rights and freedoms often go unchecked. To address this problem, I begin from two basic questions: When are violations of human rights sufficiently serious to require an international response of some sort? What should that response be? By re-orienting the aim and justification of international law to focus on individual autonomy rather than on peace between nations, I argue that women's rights violations other than genocide and mass rape can warrant intervention. Military intervention is often counter-productive to the aim of achieving autonomy, however. I suggest a range of responses to human rights violations that includes military intervention as one end of the spectrum, and combine this with a greater understanding of the scope of human rights violations that require international response.

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