A Feminist Regulatory Approach to Human Rights Due Diligence to Address Sexual Violence in Large-Scale Mining

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Large mining projects are often accompanied by systemic risks of sexual violence against women in communities where the mine operates. In this context, sexual violence is increasingly associated with the practices of multinational mining companies that find themselves involved in sexual violence through their employees or the security forces they employ or through their association with State armed forces. Prominent examples involve Anvil Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Barrick Gold in Tanzania and Papua New Guinea, Monterrico Metals in Peru and Hudbay Minerals in Guatemala. Analysis of these cases reveals that there are numerous challenges to the effective implementation of regulatory initiatives that have emerged within the ‘business and human rights debate’ to regulate corporate behaviour and limit the adverse consequences of business activities on human rights. The most authoritative, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, provide that this objective should be achieved through the establishment by corporate stakeholders of human rights due diligence processes to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their impacts on human rights. Using a theoretical methodology that draws on both feminist and regulatory scholarship, this thesis examines the notion of human rights due diligence to test its potential to prevent mining-related risks of sexual violence against women. This analysis demonstrates that it is possible for mining companies to inadequately address or to exclude sexual violence from their due diligence processes while still complying with their international responsibilities under business and human rights standards. Ultimately, this thesis argues that despite the limitations of human rights due diligence, reinforcing separate but complementary systems of regulation (corporate self-regulation, State law and civil society monitoring) to align them with feminist objectives may constitute an avenue for more gender-responsive due diligence and more effective prevention of mining-related sexual violence.
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