U.N. Secretary General António Guterres was right in his July 11 op-ed, “The chilling stories of the Rohingya,” to indict the international community for failing the Rohingya. His plea for more concerted international action could not be more timely or necessary. However, his appeal did not go as far as it should have. He failed to name the crimes against the Rohingya for what they are: genocide.

Under the most forgiving light, the secretary’s omission is an expedient political calculation. The presence of a genocide, after all, invokes broad international legal obligations. Under the harshest light, the omission is gender-discriminatory, ignoring the genocidal acts committed against Rohingya women.

As the secretary should well know, genocide is more than massive-scale killing. International courts have long held that genocide can be committed through rape, torture and expulsion from homes — all crimes that, by his own account, are occurring against the Rohingya. Still, the international community tends only to recognize mass killings and their disproportionately male victims as warranting the g-word. Such a narrow view ignores women’s experiences of genocidal violence.

Mr. Guterres stated that the response to the Rohingya crisis must be a global one. To be successful, it must also be a gendered one.

Grant Shubin, New York

The writer is deputy legal director of the
Global Justice Center.