How can transitional justice processes serve women more effectively? Among the guiding principles of UN engagement in transitional justice activities is the need to ‘strive to ensure women’s rights’. This report examines gender equality issues in relation to prosecutions, truth seeking, reparations, national consultations and institutional reforms. It argues that post-conflict transitions provide opportunities both to secure justice and to address the context of inequality that gives rise to conflict. Normative, procedural and cultural aspects of transitional justice institutions require reform.
Efforts to integrate a gender perspective into transitional justice have arisen to tackle biases in the law that affect transitional justice mechanisms. Transitional justice processes need to acknowledge that pre-existing unequal power relations between men and women make their experience of conflict different.
A gendered analysis of justice is necessary and may require rethinking the violations for which justice is sought. In addition, redress cannot be limited to violations, but must encompass measures to address the underlying inequalities that have shaped the context of violations and their impact.
Incorporating a gendered perspective in the design and implementation of transitional justice mechanisms is an ongoing challenge. For example:
- International prosecutions: Significant advances have been made in international law with regard to securing justice for conflict-related gender-based violence. However, successful prosecutions are rare, and the participation of female witnesses needs to be supported.
- Domestic prosecutions: International prosecutions are expensive and leave most perpetrators untouched, meaning that domestic prosecutions are important. This includes informal justice processes, in which gender sensitivity should be encouraged.
- Truth seeking: This includes truth commissions, commissions of inquiry and unofficial truth seeking carried out by civil society. Progress has been made in mainstreaming gender into the work of truth commissions, but there are still funding constraints, and the reporting of sexual violence remains extremely limited.
- Reparations: These may be given individually, or collectively where violations were numerous or identity-based. Reparations mechanisms lack comprehensive consideration of gendered power relations, and are often not very accessible to women.
- National consultations on the design of transitional justice measures: Including women in such consultations is essential for their effectiveness, and sends a strong signal about the equal rights of all.
- Institutional reforms: These have traditionally referred to the practice of ridding state institutions of past perpetrators of human rights violations, as well as enacting wider reforms, capacity-building and human rights training to ensure non-repetition. They must also address past gender injustices through, for example, legislative audits, the repeal of discriminatory legislation and the adoption of legislation that advances women’s rights.
Normative, procedural and cultural aspects of transitional justice institutions require reform from a gender perspective. Initial recommendations to address these three aspects of truth commissions and reparations include the following:
- Both truth and reparations commissions’ mandates should specifically include an imperative to address gender-specific crimes.
- A specific, well-resourced gender unit should be set up at the start of truth commissions’ mandates. Barriers to women’s participation should be addressed, for example through providing childcare and safe transport.
- Women should be appointed as commissioners and experts, and gender training should be carried out with all truth commission staff.
- Reparations commissions should research the conditions of women prior to conflict and their experiences during conflict, to ensure adequate knowledge of violations experienced and their effects. Reparations for women should be in proportion to those received by ex-combatants.
- Factors that limit women’s access to reparations, such as lack of access to bank accounts and formal documents, should be minimised. Female victims and women’s groups should be consulted when developing reparations measures. Efforts should be made to unseat gender hierarchies.