Gender Justice

Human rights violations can have unique consequences for women and others targeted because of their gender or sexual identity. ICTJ helps victims to fulfill their rights to justice, truth, and reparation and affirm their dignity by providing accompaniment, support, and tailored responses. We stand with victims in seeking acknowledgment and accountability for sexual and gender-based violations committed in situations of systemic abuse.

Women in colorful clothes sit together and read a book.

      “Why should a fight be played out on my body?”

      — Jacqueline Mutere, Founder of Grace Agenda, Kenya

In periods of conflict or authoritarianism, women often become targets of human rights violations because of their gender and the marginalization they suffer in many societies. They may be subjected to physical and sexual violence, as well as other violations that affect them in unique ways, such as enforced disappearance of their loved ones, displacement, and socioeconomic discrimination.

For example, women whose husbands are forcibly disappeared in conflict can suffer prolonged psychological trauma, unjust legal barriers, and other forms of discrimination because of their ambiguous status as neither married nor officially widowed. They endure a higher risk of exploitation due to poverty worsened by the loss of a primary breadwinner and ostracization by their families and other close social networks.

Compounding these harms, women’s ability to seek recourse is often severely limited, due to structural inequalities. Even transitional justice mechanisms themselves can be blind to the particular needs of women if badly designed, and responses can mirror the gendered power imbalances in society at large.

While women are often among the most marginalized in society, requiring specific attention and targeted transitional justice responses, gender justice is not only concerned with women. All victims’ experiences need to be assessed for gendered implications. A gender-sensitive approach to transitional justice examines and address the full range of experiences, including of male victims in special contexts as well as LGBTQI victims.

Can Transitional Justice Help Promote Justice for Victims of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence?

Transitional justice responses to gender-based violations during conflict and authoritarian rule are essential for ensuring justice for victims, combating women’s marginalization, and preventing future violations against women and other groups targeted for their gender. Of equal importance is ensuring that transitional justice measures meaningfully address the causes and consequences of all abuses against women—even those that are not inherently gender based.

The past few decades have seen considerable progress in terms of public acknowledgment of gender inequality, gender discrimination, and gender-based human rights violations. Too often, however, these acknowledgments do not translate into effective implementation. Much of this failure comes from a lack of technical knowledge on how to implement measures in ways that encourages women’s participation and adequately addresses the gendered nature of human rights violations.

This shortcoming is compounded when women are also excluded from the decision-making process. Women must play a central role in the design and implementation of transitional justice measures if policy is to adequately respond to their needs. This is especially true when attempting to implement policy amid ongoing sexual and gender-based violence, where the will and capacity of authorities to investigate falls short.

ICTJ’s Approach

ICTJ’s goal is to ensure that victims of gender-based violations meaningfully engage in transitional justice measures and that these measures effectively address the causes and consequences of gendered experiences of human rights violations. 

ICTJ’s main approach is to provide technical assistance in particular contexts, including by partnering with victims’ groups, activists, and officials to develop gender-sensitive and gender-responsive policies and processes that are informed by the priorities of all victims. ICTJ works to ensure that these efforts  promote meaningful justice for sexual and gender-based violations, address the gendered implications of human rights violations more broadly, and proactively create safe and accessible spaces for the most vulnerable and marginalized victims. 

ICTJ’s Gender and Transitional Justice curriculum, which draws on ICTJ’s decades of work, is intended to help civil society actors and practitioners incorporate this foundational and technical knowledge into their work and trainings. 

In addition to context-specific assistance, ICTJ also provides new insights into how transitional justice can address the gender dynamics of violence, and contributes to global policy debates on the issue. Through groundbreaking research on topics that have often received scant prior attention, such as the impact of enforced disappearance on women or sexual violence against men and boys, ICTJ seeks to push boundaries and ensure that existing norms and best practices appropriately match the day-to-day realities of victims. ICTJ also works closely with victims and civil society groups to this end. For example, ICTJ assisted Colombia Diversa with its project to explore systematic crimes committed against LGBT people during the country’s armed conflict, which resulted in submissions to the Truth Commission and Special Jurisdiction for Peace.