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During periods of armed conflict, women and girls are frequently subjected to violence because of their gender. National governments have attempted to address this issue through transitional justice mechanisms like truth and reconciliation commissions. The record of women’s input and participation in these processes, however, is rather poor. In this article, I highlight the role of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (SATRC) and the opportunity the SATRC missed in failing to comprehensively confront andexamine the systemic nature of violence against women under apartheid. Many transitional justice mechanisms, the SATRC being one of the more vivid examples, have adopted a restorative justice approach.

In light of the perceived limited effectiveness of international criminal law mechanisms regarding justice and reconciliation for victims, particularly women and children, I argue that national transitional justice mechanisms like truth and reconciliation commissions may provide more effective ways for victims to feel invested in the process and may lead to a longer-lasting peace in society. In addition, these local processes may enable advocates to squarely confront the issue of gender inequality. I further argue that the several purposes that truth and reconciliation commissions serve — including the possibilities for victims to confront perpetrators, to explain and name the harms to which they were subjected, to create a permanent record to prevent denial in the future, and to highlight the responsibility of all members of society, including the bystander beneficiaries — cannot be accomplished in international criminal tribunals. My argument is most appropriate as it relates to the peculiar harms that women suffer during armed conflicts.


New York Law School Law Review, Vol. 60, Issue 1 (2015-2016), pp. 199-226