Journal of Gender Studies’ decision to award an annual prize in the name of Janet Blackman (1934-2016), who was one of the journal’s former editors and treasurer, came after Blackman’s death on 29 November 2016 at the age of 82. Janet Blackman was an active and energetic supporter of human rights, a woman of conviction, and a generous academic. The Guardian, after Blackman’s death, described her as an internationalist, teacher, academic and community arts advocate. The journal editors declared they seek out those papers that they think align with Janet Blackman’s passions and research interests. At the end of 2017 the editorial board selected Gözde Turan’s article “The identity of ‘the other’ for sexual violence victims” for the first Janet Blackman Prize.
In her article, Turan argues that the recent codification of sexual violence crimes in the Rome Statute establishing the first permanent International Criminal Court still fails to cover a wide range of these crimes committed during armed conflicts. Despite the spectacular development in the field of international criminal law, the current international criminal law discourse, as expressed by recent case law, is geared towards the protection of certain groups targeted on account of their distinctiveness within the framework of a conflict situation, and gender is not recognized as one of these group identities. The question whether international criminal law on sexual violence applies only to inter-group conflicts brings to the fore an uneasy likelihood of exclusion of some recently emergent situations where identities of the conflicting parties transcend a particular ethnicity or nationality, and where victims of sexual violence belong to the same group as their perpetrators. The article concludes that, rather than the Rome Statute or newly introduced rules and regulations, a significant obstacle in developing gender justice is the narrow interpretation of sexual violence to inter-group hostilities.
Janet Blackman: Janet Blackman studied history at Bedford College, London and in 1962, became a lecturer at the University of Hull, where she stayed until retiring in 2001. She joined the Department of Economics having studied economic history at Sheffield. In 1976, with her colleague Keith Nield, Janet Blackman started the international journal Social History which played a prominent role in the critical development of social and cultural history. She became its sole editor upon Nield’s death in 2010, and retired from the editor’s chair in 2014.
Janet Blackman was keen to support and nurture the next generation of historians and over the years she supervised numerous successful PhDs. She was a woman of conviction and believed in the power of activism. She was a long-term president of the Hull branch of the Association of University Teachers, providing support and leadership for her colleagues. She proved to be a prominent spokesperson in challenging times. She was also a former chair of the United Nations Association of Great Britain. The latter role saw her travelling to political trouble spots with UN delegations. Her years living and working in Hull were marked by active involvement with many and varied organizations.