Transitional justice and broader challenges of gender justice

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Transitional justice and broader challenges of gender justice

In what ways do practitioners mainstream gender in transitional justice, not only by including more women in transitional justice processes but also by addressing civil-political and structural abuses against women and girls, men and boys, as well as based on sexual preference or gender identity?

Share your thoughts, experiences, questions, challenges and ideas by replying to the comments below.

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re-thinking how to work on gender justice

Transitional justice is about strengthening accountability. From a gender perspective, this means understading how men and women experienced a human right violation and its impact. From my experience, women victims often face many more barriers to accessing redress and surviving the violation then men. 

So if and when, a transitional justice mechanism is established, then we have to work hard to ensure that 1) women victims can participate and access these mechanisms—that any barriers and urgent needs are addressed; 2) there are women judges/ commissioners/ senior staff who are empowered to make gender-sensitive decisions and policies; 3) gender-based violations are integrated into the mandate. Speaking from experience, even when these three items are met—it still requires a lot of hard work to ensure that both men and women’s experiences of violations are part of understanding what happened. And that women victims get something out of their participation in these mechanisms.

However, having worked with survivors for two decades in contexts where impunity is entrenched, I think we also need to think out of the box. We can no longer wait patiently for official transitional justice mechanisms, and can no longer only rely legal-based methods of taking statements from victims.  We need to adapt methods that can benefit women/ victims themselves. This means adapting and integrating participatory action research methods, trauma healing sensitive and feminists methods to the way we try to document and understand violence.

As I mentioned before, the most perfect forms of impunity are social and cultural –where victims/ survivors self-censor themselves from speaking out about the violence they experienced and deny themselves any hope for justice. At AJAR (my organization) we have adapted traditional tools for participatory action research such as (1) timeline and (2) community mapping to probe survivors to talk about their experience of violations, (3) resource mapping to identify the social economic impact of violations. We adapted a women’s health method (4) body mapping to encourage women to speak about sites of pain and happiness on their bodies. We also developed some new methods, we are calling (5) stone and flower to talk about justice, truth, healing and freedom from violence; (6) photo stories where researchers interview survivors while taking pictures of important items identified by the interviewee, (7) memory box where participants share the content of a box that they were asked to fill with items that were significant to them.

We are developing methods where women survivors become an active agent of change, not as an object of research/ statement-taking or documentation. So that when we design our transitional justice interventions we should look for ways to also empower women survivors, facilitate a healing process, and build solidarity and networking with a long-term vision for dealing with the root causes that caused the human rights (and gender-based) violations. 

Requesting more info about the traditional tools adapted by AJAR

Thank you for sharing this information on the approaches and tools you use in AJAR, Galuh! I'm very interested to learn more about your list traditional tools your organization has adapted for participatory action research. Body mapping has come up in a pervious online discussion - it is also used by the Trauma Centre in South Africa. Can you share links to where we can find more information about: timeline, community mapping, resource mapping, body mapping, stone and flower, photo stories and memory box? I'm sure that these tools could be adapted for other contexts and those working in the TJ field.

Also for those of you interested to learn more about participatory research and participatory action research, you can visit this summary of our past discussion on this topic.

For others - what approaches and tools have you used to empower survivors to become an "active agent of change" (as Galuh articulated so well above)?

- Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

AJAR's tools

Hi Kristin,

We are in the process of putting together a manual based on our experiences developing these tools. Hopefully we will have something available online by next year.  In the meantime, we have produced a short report entitled "Remembering My Beloved, Remembering My Pain" which was written up as a product from a participatory research project conducted with victims from Aceh and Timor-Leste. We developed this methodology using digital cameras, and teaching survivors to do photo essays with other victims/survivors in theri communities. You can download the report at:

In January this year, we also worked with a puppet theater group called Papermoon (from Jogja, Indonesia) to help survivors re-tell their stories through puppets. Here is a short video with highlights from the workshop:

Challenges of the gendered nature of TJ?

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

In trying to understand and reflect on the broad challenges of gender and TJ I thought of highlighting a few pertinent issues that I have been facing within the discourse...

Gender Dynamics play a central role in the meaning of what happens, to whom, where and how.... and while there is no secret that women and children are usually the first to become displaced and attacked as "non- military" targets, gender analysis reveals more than this. Such analysis reveals that all processes associated with the generation and resolution of conflict are gendered and that peace building which does not take this and womens experiences of conflict into account is doomed to fail.

Gender inequality is one of the most pervasive forms of societal inequality and is often exacerbated by conflict and situations of gross human rights violations. Entrenched forms of gender based violence also make women and girls particularly vulnerable to conflict- related human rights abuses, including systemic sexual violence which often continues unabated even after the conflict has ended... The social stigma and trauma associated with reporting such crimes and womens exclusion from public- decision making processes make it particularly challenging for women to engage with the TJ mechanisms that do exist within Africa.

I would be very interested in finding out from the various practitioners working  at grassroots/ community level as to if and how they encourage the various national TJ mechanisms to address/ incorporate the gendered nature of victims needs and participation?



TRC in Nepal

Greeting from the Action Works Nepal !

This is Radha Paudel, a WAR Survivor during a decade more Maoist Insurgency in Nepal.

I do agree what previous friends discussed about gender responsive TRC. It is for all; women and men, boys and girls. Though there are many international practices regards to TRC though there is difference as country or context. Here, I briefly share a Nepal’s TRC.

In Nepal, TRC is a mandatory provision according to the agreement of Comprehensive Peace Accord (2006). But it takes about 8 years to formalize (cabinet approved it only in 25 April) with great discussions, debate among political parties human right activists and all concerned stakeholders.  It is great step for peace building and appreciated. It gives a hope for survivors, their families and all.

Though I am not law student, I have following points to discuss;

  1. Doubt on implementation: Based on experiences or the behavior shown by political parties and government, very hard to assure the implementation of TRC as its mandate. Because political parties are failed to enact their commitments.
  2. Women’s Participation: There is a provision for only one woman which oppose as Interim Constitution 2007, UNSCR 1325 and other human rights mandates. It should be at least 33 % representation. In this scenario, how can  we believe that women will participate as local level as decision makers and service users?
  3. Sexual Violence: In Nepal, none of the actors are ready to address sexual violence including RAPE yet. The current laws are discriminatory e.g. rape cases should be report within 35 days. Likewise, other supporting mechanism for gender based violence is not gender responsive yet. In this condition which women and men come and report about the sexual violence. In brief, the TRC is more reconciliation rather truth finding and legal treatment. Further, only 100 sexual violence are reported (OCHR 2012) which is not real due to lack of supporting mechanism to protect survivors and other mechanism.
  4. Amnesty:  The TRC is more amnesty (blanket) oriented than legal action. Few cases have already dealt by the Supreme Court but not acted yet. These cases are popular and debatable in national and international politics and discussion. If it applies to each case what is the meaning of the having TRC.
Lets connect!

These points are fantastic and I'm privileged to join this conversation and hope to hear more. 

Galuh, I echo Kristin's comment and would love to see links to your resources you mention. In particular, community mapping is notoriously fraught in terms of identifying voices which aren't heard past dominant voices - what types of methods did you have to address this challenge? 

Sufiya I would love to hear more about your methods also. 

Radha, your work sounds incredibly important - how is gender violence will be addressed within the recently approved TRC legislation?

Overall, my observation is that in the last 10 years, there has been a decrease in advocacy platforms wherein women connect to articulate an advocacy agenda and strategize how to advance their objectives. This conclusion is particularly stark when comparing to the efforts in the 1990s with the Vienna Declaration, the Beijing World Conference on Women, the advocacy leading to the provisions on gender-based violence at the International Criminal Court. Does anyone else share this view, and if so, how can be re-build momentum?


women-focused community mapping

During my time working at East Timor's truth commission (CAVR), we used timeline and community mapping as two participatory tools, to supplement the work done by the research and statement-taking teams. The community mapping tool was always good to get more information on violations that was experienced together, such as famine (in the case of East Timor, there was a great famine that killed 80,000-100,000 persons in 1978-1970. The CAVR found that this famine was a war crime). You are right that the dominant voices, (elderly men) are seen as the ones who can speak on behalf of the community about their history. So, we also organized a few community mapping sessions just with women participants. We got some interesting information that way. For example we heard that some families "traded" their daughters to soldiers in return for food. These kind of exercises do not produce detailed information (names, places) but can be an important lead for other processes.

For the research that we are doing now, we have prioritized women survivors as our starting point. But now, we are also trying to use these tools with male victims. It will be interesting to see how it pans out.

Re. momentum... it sort of fizzled out at an international-level. But working with women victims on the ground, it never actually reached them :(  So yes, lets put our thinking caps on!




women initiatives

I thought I would share the case of an initiative of colombian women who organized  what is called the Truth Comission of Women in Colombia. This is a proyect of women who organized in a group called Pacific Route of the Women  to document with a feminist perspective more than 1,000 testimonies of women who suffered violence during the armed confilct in Colombia. It combines the documentation of testimonies with giving psico social support to the survivers . They generated a report called "Memory for life: a truth comission from women to Colombia", it is in spanish. Though it is worth mentioning because in the report they share the whole process of documenting and systematizing all the information, finding what is relevant for women to tell.

This is the link to the report

Citing the organization the truth comission from women "was conceived as a process where women who suffered violence against her lives and bodies, could be put at the center, together with their contributions, demands and revindications". 


other thoughts re gender and TJ

The Colombian example is a good one re initiatives coming from women, about womens' experiences.  A few other things that might be useful:

- in thinking about reparations processes, it seems like one of the issues is hearing the voices of women.  There was an interesting experience in Peru where the government provided small amounts of money to communities for a "collective reparations" project.  The community was supposed to decide what the project should look like.  There was NGO monitoring (available through the ictj website, although I think only in Spanish) that showed that women had different priorities than men, mostly focused on getting electricity so kids could study and educational benefits.  This suggests that the voices of women need to be better heard across a range of reparations issues, not just those related to sexual violence.  Perhaps we could think about women-centered negotiations or consultations re what reparations should look like.  Otherwise the specific ideas of women are likely to get lost.

On the question of the loss of momentum internationally, I see a process of institutionalization of "womens issues" that has made efforts much less activist,radical and participatory.  I think part of this is the reduction of gender-sensitivity to better treatment of rape and crimes of sexual violence in the (international and national) criminal justice systems.  We need to broaden the discussion back out again and connect it up especially with issues of livelihood, loss of educational and health opportunities, and forced displacement.  

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