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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: December 2020

Introduction: Feminist Perspectives on Transitional Justice


The last two decades have produced a number of publications on topics such as gender and human rights or international law. However, with the exception of Gender in Transitional Justice (Buckley-Zistel and Stanley, eds.), there still is little written on gender and feminist issues in the fast-growing arena of transitional justice.

Truth-seeking mechanisms, international criminal law developments, and other forms of transitional justice have become ubiquitous in societies emerging from long years of conflict, instability, and oppression and moving into a post-conflict, more peaceful era. In the concluding chapter of her influential work, Transitional Justice, Professor Ruti Teitel argues that transitional justice work can be seen as developing a paradigm that combines politics with law to address the need to reconstruct on stable basis a society affected by instability on many different fronts. She writes:

A paradigm of transitional jurisprudence defines periods of political passage. The transitional paradigm proposed here seeks to clarify law's relation to political development in periods of radical flux, as it demonstrates processes that reconstitute societies on a basis of political liberalization. Whether trials, constitutions, reparations, administrative tests, bans, or historical inquiries, the legal measures pursued in periods of political transition are emblematic of normative change, for all are operative acts that aim at proclaiming the establishment of a new political order.

Both top-down and bottom-up approaches to transitional justice are being developed formally and informally in places such as South Africa, Liberia, Peru, Chile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and Northern Ireland. Elaboration of theories relating to transitional justice generally can be found in studies, debates, and conferences world-wide. These sources typically do not take into account in any systematic manner the specific victimisation of women. Few commentators consider whether the recently developed mechanisms for promoting peace and reconciliation will actually help the position of women as a society moves out of repression or conflict. This is unfortunate. Because post-conflict societies must rebuild, they are uniquely positioned to effect change. The restorative process to build a stable and democratic polity affords an opportunity to introduce new standards that would facilitate, if not ensure, the active participation of the entire population, particularly including women.