Research Theme: Gender, Conflict and Transition

Gender Research at the TJI

The origins of contemporary gender and transitional justice scholarship lie firmly within feminist interventions into international criminal law and international humanitarian law in the 1990s to secure accountability for crimes of sexual violence against women in conflict situations. From that initial focus on legal doctrine, a rich multidisciplinary area of gender and transitional justice scholarship has burgeoned. Whilst feminist doctrinal analysis remains prominent in gender research at the TJI, it is now informed by perspectives from psychology, sociology, political science, masculinities studies, and gender theory more broadly.

Further, while initial interventions into the field were initially focused on revealing and criminalizing sexual violence in conflict situations, gender analysis in transitional justice is now motivated by a much wider range of harms in conflict situations, such as political marginalization, the impact of conflict on familial relationships, and socioeconomic harms. Legal categories in transitional justice construct a set of binaries in the categorisation of harms (bodily/non-bodily; during conflict/after conflict; public/private; local/international). One of the key theoretical projects of gender research at the TJI is uncovering the continuities in harms that take place in situations of conflict and political repression.

The legal devices common to the transitional justice landscape – amnesty, truth recovery, international criminal justice, reconstruction, rule of law reform, security sector reform, and reparations – are important ‘sites’ of gender research in transitional justice. Further, peace agreements are instruments for the negotiation, agreement, and implementation of transitions from conflict. Because peace agreements constitute cross-cutting sites of transitional justice, exploring their gender imprint is a prominent theme of TJI gender research. 

Situations of conflict tend to allow some loosening in the prescribed gender roles of men and women. The absence of men from family and community can create opportunities for women’s leadership. The fewer number of women in combatant groups can require men to take on domestic roles. The ‘endpoint’ of transitional justice, as a peaceful liberal democratic order, tends to reverse these gender equality gains and reaffirm a traditional public/private divide. Gender research at the TJI investigates the role of transitional justice in challenging, or reaffirming, traditional gender roles, and the impact of transition on constructions of masculinity and femininity.

For further information, please contact TJI Gender Research Coordinator Dr Catherine O’Rourke (cf.orourke@ulster.ac.uk).

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