What happens to women whose lives are transformed by human rights violations? This volume from the InternationalCenter for Transitional Justice explores gender and reparations policies in Guatemala, Peru, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Timor-Leste. It argues for the systematic introduction of a gender dimension into reparations programmes as a way of acknowledging the rights of female victims.
The nature and consequences of human rights violations differ markedly for men and women. Even when women are subjected to the same violations as men, their pre-existing socioeconomic and legal status may imply that the consequences will be different. Women face a double marginalisation under authoritarian regimes and during and after violent conflicts. Nonetheless, reparations programmes are rarely designed to address the needs of women victims. There may, however, be a very incipient trend to reverse the traditional absence of gender in the discussions on reparations. As more and more truth commissions come into being it is likely that this trend will be consolidated. It may be that the results of previous political struggles by feminist movements have borne fruit before serious reflection has been given to the concrete ways in which this can be capitalised upon.
- While truth commissions help provide victims with a public voice, they do little more to help victims face the concrete consequences of their ordeals. Reparations, on the other hand, are a tangible manifestation of the efforts of the state to remedy the harm the victims have suffered.
- The integration of gender considerations into reparation discussion is still in its early stages, and moving from discussion to implementation has been problematic. Virtually none of the case studies examined in this report, have actually implemented the measures to recognise gender in reparations processes, despite lengthy discussion.
- The specific nature of violations suffered by women, particularly sexual violence and the associated stigma for victims, can be an obstacle for reparation efforts. Much more serious thought is necessary to ascertain the most effective and sensitive way of ensuring that reparations benefits reach women victims.
While it is increasingly recognised that gender is an essential element to be considered in reparation processes, there is still a vacuum of knowledge on how best to implement such initiatives. There is an urgent need to address the deficiency, on several levels:
- There is reason to believe that the absence of feminist and women’s rights organisations from reparation discussions has led to a gender bias. Including the voices of women in policy discussions of reparations is a necessary step to taking women’s needs into account in this arena.
- There is a need for more effective ways of measuring the specific forms of harm suffered by women and their consequences. For example, violence which harms a woman’s reproductive ability is often classed with other sexual violations even though the consequences may be markedly different.
- Greater clarity is needed regarding the most appropriate ways of offering reparation. For example, some women express a preference for reparation in the form of health or counselling services rather than purely monetary. There is a need to understand how best to offer redress that fulfils the specific needs of women while avoiding reproducing gender subordination.