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Female Combatants and the Post-Conflict Process in Sierra Leone


Cullen, Laura C. 2020. "Female Combatants and the Post-Conflict Process in Sierra Leone." Journal of International Women's Studies 21 (2): 114-25.

Author: Laura C. Cullen


Women and girls had a specific and gendered experience of the civil war in Sierra Leone. They filled the role of combatants, ‘bush wives’, child soldiers, and sexual slaves. As a result of these roles, women are often described as having dual identities of both perpetrators and victims of violence. This duality resulted in the complex question of how to help these women both reintegrate into society and also address the crimes which they are alleged to have committed during the war. In this paper, I argue that these women and girls should be treated as victims due to the fact that their crimes were committed under coercion. I investigate the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process, performing a critique of its gendered assumptions and its inability to provide adequate assistance to females coerced into combat. I perform a critical analysis of the formation and efficacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). I investigate the Special Court’s treatment of the women and girls who were victims coerced into war and potentially held responsible as if they were perpetrators. In doing so, critical deconstruction of the treatment of these women highlights both the hybrid court’s successes and failures in advocating for these women. Throughout the paper, I explore the question of how the post-conflict reconstruction process should treat women and girls, who are victims but who have discursively been positioned also as perpetrators.

Keywords: female combatants, women combatants, Special Court for Sierra Leone, bush wives, DDR, child soldiers, post-conflict resolutions, international criminal justice, hybrid courts, gendered assumptions in the post-conflict process

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Female Combatants, DDR, Gender, Women, Girls, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, TRCs, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual Violence, Sexual Slavery Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2020

Testimony Under Threat: Women’s Voices and the Pursuit of Justice in Post-War Sri Lanka


Hoglund, Kristine. 2019. "Testimony Under Threat: Women’s Voices and the Pursuit of Justice in Post-War Sri Lanka." Human Rights Review 20: 361-82.

Author: Kristine Hoglund


This paper foregrounds how women’s public testimony as part of a formal transitional justice initiative is shaped by the particular context in which a commission operate, including the political and security environment. While the literature has engaged with the gendered predicaments of truth commissions after peace agreements and during transitions away from non-democratic rule, the function of such initiatives in more authoritarian and in immediate post-war contexts is generally overlooked. I examine women’s testimonies from Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), and contend that pervasive militarization and insecurity, and the conduct of the Commission, influenced the stories that came forth. Women’s testimonies in the war-torn areas primarily represent pleas for information about missing family members and reflect important silences about the women’s own experiences of abuse, including ongoing post-war insecurities. The analysis raises questions about what may be expected from transitional justice efforts in difficult post-war contexts.

Keywords: gender, Sri Lanka, public testimony, LLRC, human rights, transitional justice

Topics: Gender, Women, Justice, Transitional Justice, TRCs, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Post-Conflict, Security Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Sri Lanka

Year: 2019

Transitional Justice in South Africa and Brazil: Introducing a Gendered Approach to Reconciliation


Nelaeva, Galina, and Natalia Sidorova. 2019. "Transitional Justice in South Africa and Brazil: Introducing a Gendered Approach to Reconciliation." BRICS Law Journal 6 (2): 82-107.

Authors: Galina Nelaeva, Natalia Sidorova


The concept of transitional justice has been associated with the periods of political change when a country emerges from a war or turmoil and attempts to address the wrongdoings of the past. Among various instruments of transitional justice, truth commissions stand out as an example of a non-judicial form of addressing the crimes of the past. While their setup and operation can be criticized on different grounds, including excessive politization of hearings and the virtual impossibility of meaningfully assessing their impact, it has been widely acknowledged in the literature that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa can be regarded as a success story due to its relatively strong mandate and widespread coverage and resonance it had in South African society. We would like to compare this commission from the 1990s with a more recent example, the Brazilian National Truth Commission, so as to be able to address the question of incorporation of gendered aspects in transitional justice (including examination of sexual violence cases, representation of women in truth-telling bodies, etc.), since gender often remains an overlooked and silenced aspect in such initiatives. Gendered narratives of transitional justice often do not fit into the wider narratives of post-war reconciliation. A more general question addressed in this research is whether the lack of formal procedure in truth commissions facilitates or hinders examination of sexual crimes in transitional settings.

Keywords: transitional justice, truth commissions, post-conflict resolution, gender-based violence, reconciliation

Topics: Gender, Justice, Transitional Justice, TRCs, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence Regions: Africa, Southern Africa, Americas, South America Countries: Brazil, South Africa

Year: 2019

Gender-Aware and Place-Based Transitional Justice in Guatemala: Altering the Opportunity Structures for Post-Conflict Women's Mobilization


Destrooper, Tine, and Stephan Parmentier. 2018. "Gender-Aware and Place-Based Transitional Justice in Guatemala: Altering the Opportunity Structures for Post-Conflict Women's Mobilization." Social & Legal Studies 27 (3): 323-44.

Authors: Tine Destrooper, Stephan Parmentier


Place-based approaches to transitional justice, which foreground victim participation, have become increasingly popular in the last decade. The assumption is that these approaches enhance legitimacy, increase the local relevance of interventions, and empower victims. However, the causal mechanisms by which this alleged empowerment takes place, are not usually studied in great detail. This article examines whether altering the opportunity structures of (germinal) civil society organizations is one of the ways by which this empowering effect might take hold. The authors argue that in Guatemala, the transitional justice process, and in particular the truth commission, did indeed significantly alter the opportunity structures of grassroots indigenous women’s groups, most notably by providing these groups with support to develop their own agenda and with access to ‘elite allies’. Yet the fieldwork performed hitherto would also advise against treating localized and participatory approaches to transitional justice as a panacea, for even if a genuine bottom-up approach is promising, the ongoing institutionalization of the field of transitional justice makes adequate implementation of such an approach difficult; and especially in cases where victims face intersectional discrimination positive effects may be slow to materialize.

Keywords: civil society, Guatemala, localization, place-based interventions, 'transitional justice', women's movements

Topics: Civil Society, Gender, Women, Justice, Transitional Justice, TRCs Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: Guatemala

Year: 2018

Gendering Tunisia's Transition: Transformative Gender Justice Outcomes in Times of Transitional Justice Turmoil?


Ketelaars, Elise. 2018. "Gendering Tunisia's Transition: Transformative Gender Justice Outcomes in Times of Transitional Justice Turmoil?" The International Journal of Transitional Justice 12 (3): 407-26.

Author: Elise Ketelaars


In the summer of 2017 Tunisia achieved some notable victories in the field of women’s rights, while at the same time it witnessed the further backtracking of its already fragile transitional justice process. Though various analyses in local and international media have touched upon the current regime’s use of gender-friendly policies to cover up its otherwise illiberal agenda, few have considered what the consequences of these developments are for the advancement of gender justice in Tunisia. This article looks into this question, focusing specifically on the transformative potential of the activities of Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission. It uses these insights to feed into the feminist academic debate on ‘transformative justice.’ The Tunisian case study shows that reliance on technical innovations within traditional transitional justice mechanisms does not necessarily guarantee the pursuance of transformative justice outcomes which cross political divides.

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Governance, Justice, Transitional Justice, TRCs, Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Africa, MENA, North Africa Countries: Tunisia

Year: 2018

The Emerging LGBTI Rights Challenge to Transitional Justice in Latin America


Bueno-Hansen, Pascha. 2018. "The Emerging LGBTI Rights Challenge to Transitional Justice in Latin America." The International Journal of Transitional Justice 12 (1): 126-45.

Author: Pascha Bueno-Hansen


Latin American truth commissions have recently expanded their purview to include cases of violence against gender and sexual minorities as human rights violations worthy of investigation. This article proposes that grappling with this emerging LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) rights challenge requires a queer, intersectional and decolonial analytical lens that underscores the relevance of global LGBTI politics, and critiques transitional justice foundational assumptions regarding temporality and binary logics. In practical terms, this analytical lens enacts a double move by unearthing the deeply tangled and life-extinguishing roots of impunity surrounding violence against gender and sexual minorities while advocating for the realization of LGBTI people’s full citizenship.

Topics: Citizenship, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Gender, Justice, Impunity, Transitional Justice, TRCs, LGBTQ, Rights, Human Rights, Sexuality, Violence Regions: Americas, Central America, South America

Year: 2018

Peace for Whom? Legacies of Gender-Based Violence in Peru


Boesten, Jelke. 2019. "Peace for Whom? Legacies of Gender-Based Violence in Peru." In Politics after Violence: Legacies of the Shining Path Conflict in Peru, edited by Hillel David Soifer and Alberto Vergara. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Author: Jelke Boesten


"In August 2016, a multitude of women, their families, and their friends took to the streets of Lima to protest the high levels of violence against women in Peru and the impunity routinely accorded to the perpetrators of this violence. Never before had so many Peruvians protested violence against women, even if there had been ample reason to do so. In this chapter, I will explore why this mass mobilization happened at this particular point in time by examining the extent to which the violence against women in 2016 might be interpreted as a legacy of the violence of the Internal Armed Conflict (IAC) or as a result of persistent historical structures of violence and inequity. I also consider whether the contemporary response to such violence from both civil society activists and the state should be seen in light of the continuous battles over truth, justice, and reconciliation. In exploring the hypothesis that the contemporary violence against women is a legacy of a much longer history of violence and inequality, I will focus in particular on what aspects might be seen as a sequel to the Internal Armed Conflict. I will ask if high levels of peacetime violence might be seen as either a wartime mechanism or a post-conflict legacy. To examine this, I draw from my research in the archives of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and other sources for my book Sexual Violence during War and Peace: Gender, Power, and Post-Conflict Justice in Peru (2014). But I am also interested in exploring how the lack of justice and visibility regarding cases of conflict-related violence against women contrasts with the more recent mobilization of hundreds of thousands of people to protests against continuous high levels of violence against women. I argue that perhaps historic cases are too politically and socially divisive to work as examples that promote broader gender justice; instead, it may be that the struggle against the everyday violence women and girls experience across lines of class, ethnicity, geography, and age has finally found its historic momentum, with capable activists to lead the way and a political opportunity to rise to the challenge of demanding justice and social change" (Boesten 2019, 297-98).

Topics: Age, Armed Conflict, Civil Society, Class, Ethnicity, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Justice, Impunity, TRCs, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence, Violence Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Peru

Year: 2019

The Unrealised Potential for Transformative Reparations for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Sierra Leone


Williams, Sarah, and Jasmine Opdam. 2017. “The Unrealised Potential for Transformative Reparations for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Sierra Leone.” The International Journal of Human Rights 21 (9): 1281–301.

Authors: Sarah Williams, Jasmine Opdam


The conflict in Sierra Leone was known for the scope and severity of atrocities targeted at civilians, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) mainly perpetrated against women and girls. Post-conflict initiatives included the establishment of a hybrid criminal tribunal, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), and a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC). However, neither possessed a mandate for reparations to victims, yet both have made some contribution to tranformation. The judgments and processes of the SCSL have provided a measure of recognition to victims of SGBV. The TRC was required to to pay special attention to the experiences of women and girls in respect of sexual violence and structural inequality. It also interpreted its mandate broadly, in particular to making general recommendations as to the position of women and girls, as well as more specific recommendations as to reparations projects. These recommendations addressed three aspects of gender justice based on Fraser (recognition, representation and redistribution) and offered considerable scope for transformative reparations for victims of SGBV, including through structural, legal and social changes intended to guarantee the non-repetition of sexual violence. However, this article argues that although several of the TRC’s recommendations had transformative potential, much of this potential has not been realised due to the failure of the government to implement those recommendations.

Keywords: Sierra Leone, reparations, truth commission, sexual and gender-based violence

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Girls, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Post-conflict Governance, Justice, Reparations, TRCs, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual Violence, SV against women, Violence Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2017

Pacific Regional Perspectives on Women and the Media: Making the Connection with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (Women, Peace, and Security) and Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action


Bhagwan-Rolls, Sharon. 2011. "Pacific Regional Perspectives on Women and the Media: Making the Connection with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (Women, Peace, and Security) and Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action." Signs 36 (3): 570-77.

Author: Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls


If empowerment means challenging social norms, equalizing power relations, and enabling individuals and groups to actively claim their rights, then what does it mean for women in rural communities in the Pacific Island region, where the basic necessities of life remain unfulfilled? Where is the peace if there is poverty of information and communication? What does it mean for small Pacific Island states where national budgets for gender equality rely on bilateral support rather than real investment and equity in the allocation of national budgets? What does all this mean for women working to transform information and communication systems to ensure that women in our rural communities are not just informed but are also able to inform and influence both the security-sector-governance and truth-and-reconciliation processes as well as to articulate our economic security priorities, which are linked to our political security? These questions are critical when trying to decipher the implications of Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action for women of the Pacific region, which includes a diverse media environment ranging from a major global news hub in Australia to our mobile women’s radio station in Fiji. They are equally critical in our work of coordinating a regional women’s media network dedicated to advancing the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. (The University of Chicago Press Journals)


Topics: Economies, Poverty, Gender, Women, Gender Budgeting, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Media, Infrastructure, Information & Communication Technologies, Justice, TRCs, Peace and Security, Peacebuilding, Security, UN Security Council Resolutions on WPS, UNSCR 1325 Regions: Oceania

Year: 2011

Who are you for? Women, Children and Hierarchies of Power


Stovel, Laura, "Who are you for? Women, Children and Hierarchies of Power" In Long Road Home: Building Reconciliation and Trust in Post-War Sierra Leone, (Portland: Intersentia, 2010).

Author: Laura Stovel

Topics: Gender, Women, Transitional Justice, TRCs, Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2010


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