Gender and Reparations

Cusco, Peru, 2005. Peruvian women participate in the Walk for Peace and Solidarity seeking to promote a message of unity and reparations for victims of political violence. Photo by Rolly Valdiva.

It is widely acknowledged that female victims experience authoritarian regimes and armed conflict in distinct ways. Similarly, women usually play a crucial role in the aftermath of violence such as:

  • searching for victims or their remains
  • trying to reconstitute families and communities
  • and upholding memory and demands for justice.

Despite this, until recently there has been almost no factual information on the different needs of men and women regarding reparations, and almost no normative work on the difference a gender perspective would have on reparations.

This has made it exceedingly difficult to articulate arguments for gender-differentiated reparations measures and to influence emerging policies.

Truth commissions have become increasingly sensitive to gender issues—but they have not expressed this sensitivity in drafting reparations plans shaped by a deep understanding of the impact of reparations benefits on women.

Project Aims

ICTJ’s Gender and Reparations project explored ways of introducing a gender dimension into reparations programs, in order to maximize the potential redress for female victims and their families.

The project aimed to:

  • collect and analyze information about how past and ongoing reparations programs have dealt with a variety of gender issues
  • articulate views about how the adoption of a gender perspective in reparations could better serve women's justice interests
  • contribute to the more general debate about gender equity
  • strengthen local and international expertise on the topic of reparations
  • facilitate and solidify a network of experts on the issue of gender and reparations
  • identify best practices
  • enrich the tools available to transitional and post-conflict societies for redressing victims, particularly women.

While one of the goals of a reparations program is to provide a measure of justice—albeit imperfect—to victims, reparations are also intimately tied to building a just and peaceful foundation for a transitioning society. A program that fails to provide redress or justice to women in effect undermines the link between the goals of reparations and establishing a democratic state.

Case Studies and Publications

The project commissioned six case studies on reparations for women in:

  • Guatemala
  • Peru
  • Rwanda
  • Sierra Leone
  • South Africa
  • Timor-Leste

The project resulted in two publications: What Happened to the Women? Gender and Reparations for Human Rights Violations in 2006 and The Gender of Reparations: Unsettling Sexual Hierarchies While Redressing Human Rights Violations in 2009, both edited by Ruth Rubio-Marín.