Dealing with the Aftermath: Sexual Violence and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission


Goldblatt, Beth, and Sheila Meintjes. 1997. “Dealing with the Aftermath: Sexual Violence and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” Agenda, no. 36, 7–18.

Authors: Beth Goldblatt, Sheila Meintjes


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has completed its task of holding human rights violation hearings. Thousands of people have faced the Commission and the nation to tell their stories and air their pain. Many, who have listened to this testimony for the past two years, will understandably believe that the story of our past has now been completely told. It has not - violence against women is one of the hidden sides to the story of our past. While certain women bravely recorded their experiences, many others have not been able to come before the TRC. This has implications not only for our understanding of our history but also for current attempts to heal our society. In this article we suggest that past and present violence against women is located on a continuum. The process of rebuilding our society involves helping women survivors to deal with their trauma. The process of creating a new society based on human rights and justice demands serious efforts to create a society where women are free from fear and able to participate fully as citizens of the society. This article first examines the role of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in dealing with the issue of sexual violence against women and the evidence that did and did not emerge. The article then tries to explore the relationship between political and other sexual violence and the relationship between public and private violence. This leads us towards a preliminary understanding of the gendered nature of South African society both during and in the aftermath of apartheid. Finally, the article proposes certain reparation measures as the means to ensure positive social reconstruction. These must go hand-in- hand with state action to protect women's safety in terms of rights in the Bill of Rights, such as the right to bodily integrity and the right to citizenship. Such rights must however, be asserted and given content by women's organisations and others committed to gender equality.

Topics: Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Justice, TRCs, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights, Sexual Violence, Rape, SV against Women Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 1997

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