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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.

Project Period: 2016-2021
Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Project Leader: Prof. Dr. Susanne Buckley-Zistel
Team: Prof. Dr. Susanne Buckley-Zistel, Dr. Anne Menzel, Dr. Mariam Salehi

  • Publications

    Buckley-Zistel, Susanne 2016. Truth Commissions, Human Rights and Gender: Normative Changes in Transitional Moments. In: Tobias Debiel et al. (eds.). Peacebuilding in Crisis: Rethinking Paradigms and Practises of Global Cooperation. Abington: Routledge. DOI: 10.4324/9781315717852

    Buckley-Zistel, Susanne 2018. Transitional Justice. In: Chris Brown & Robyn Eckersley (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of International Political Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198746928.001.0001

    Buckley-Zistel, Susanne 2019. The Global Textual Legacies of Truth Commissions: Narratives on Violence in the Reports of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kenya and Beyond. In: Jeremy Sarkin (ed.) The Global Impact and Legacy of Truth Commissions. Antwerp: Intersentia. DOI: 10.1017/9781780687957

    Buckley-Zistel, Susanne. Hakikat Komisyonları, İnsan Hakları ve Toplumsal Cinsiyet: Geçiş Dönemlerinde Normatif Değişimler [Truth Commissions, Human Rights and Gender], in: Nisan Alıcı/Güneş Daşlı (eds.). Toplumsal Cinsiyet ve Barış [Gender and Peace]. Ankara: Dipnot Press.

    Menzel, Anne 2018. Geld ist unser Hauptproblem! Kann Aufklärung gewalthaltige Geschlechterverhältnisse verändern? Wissenschaft & Frieden 3/2018.  

    Menzel, Anne 2020. The Pressures of Getting It Right: Expertise and Victims’ Voices in the Work of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). In: International Journal of Transitional Justice 14, 2. DOI: 10.1093/ijtj/ijaa011

    Menzel, Anne 2021. Delivering Output and Struggling for Change: Tacit Activism among Professional Transitional Justice Work in Sierra Leone and Kenya. In: Cooperation and Conflict 56, 4. DOI: 10.1177/00108367211000800

    Menzel, Anne. ‘Without Education You Can Never Become President’: Teenage Pregnancy and Pseudo-Empowerment in Sierra Leone. In: Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 13, 4. DOI: 10.1080/17502977.2019.1612992

    Menzel, Anne. The Perils of Recognizing Local Agency: The Case of Victims of Sexual Violence and the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). In: Journal of International Relations and Development 23, 3. DOI: 10.1177/00108367211000800

  • Blogs

    Menzel, Anne. „Lokale“ Zivilgesellschaften und ihre Akteur*innen - was steckt in dieser räumlichen Zuschreibung? DVPW-Blog, 2021.

    Buckley-Zistel, Susanne und Menzel, Anne. Sexuelle Gewalt in Konflikten: Endlich soll wirksam gehandelt werden – nur wie? DVPW-Blog, 2019.

    Menzel, Anne. Building a Movement in a Projectized World: Wangu Kanja’s Struggle for Survivors of Sexual Violence in Kenya. Mauerpark Institute Blog, 2018.

    Buckley-Zistel, Susanne. Women, Gender and Transitional Justice, FriEnt Blog, 2019.

    Buckley-Zistel, Susanne. Frauen, Gender und Transitional Justice, PeaceLab Blog, 2018.

    Menzel, Anne. Sexual Violence in Post-Ebola Sierra Leone: Old Problems and New Policy Priorities. Mauerpark Institute Blog, 2017.