Redressing Sexual Violence in Truth Commissions

Foto: Henry Myrttinen

The Labelling of Women as Victims and its Social Repercussions

The project “Redressing Sexual Violence in Truth Commissions. The Labelling of Women as Victims and its Social Repercussions” analyses how this form of victimisation is acknowledged by truth commissions, what roles women are ascribed, and if and how this affects gender relations in post-conflict societies. The project investigates processes of acknowledgment and the labelling of victims through institutional practices, as well as their social implications.

According to the current state of the art, women mainly become targets of sexual violence due to the roles they fulfil in society. During violent conflict, it is their reproductive-maternal role and its associated social meaning, in particular, that are targeted and destroyed symbolically. In order to prevent this in the future, so the premise of the project, the social gender relations and power asymmetries between men and women need to change considerably. The project examines if this can be achieved by the work of truth commissions that increasingly focus on sexual violence in their hearings. It investigates if and how institutional practises of acknowledgment lead to a redistribution of social power relations and to a more gender just society.

The objective of the project is thus to analyse the acknowledgement of victimhood in transitional justice processes, or more precisely in truth commissions. It focuses on acknowledgement and the associated discursive construction of a particular social group – women that have been targeted by sexual violence – as victims. This labelling might take on forms which do not challenge but reproduce their inferior social position. The construction of victimhood may lead to processes of subjectification that move beyond the institutional and temporal confinements of a truth commission and affect the constitution of the society in which it operates. The project therefore also assesses wider changes and risks as well as societal implications of the acknowledged victimhood.

Laufzeit: 2016-2021

Förderung: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Projektleiterin: Prof. Dr. Susanne Buckley-Zistel

Team: Prof. Dr. Susanne Buckley-Zistel, Dr. Anne Menzel, Dr. Mariam Salehi