Women, men, boys and girls all experience conflict and the aftermath of conflict differently. International regard for their differential experiences of armed conflict and repression has increased, as has awareness for the importance of addressing their respective needs and priorities in the aftermath of conflict. Translation of this awareness into practice has however remained unequal and progress slow.
Following conflict, it is predominantly conflict-related sexual violence such as rape that receives the most attention, particularly in terms of criminal prosecution. Yet, a narrowed focus on such crimes, though relevant, obscures the broader universe of human rights violations affecting women in conflict. Similarly, it neglects to take into account the root causes of such abuses; namely the systemic marginalisation of women from the public sphere and repression in the private sphere caused by prevailing gender inequalities. These experiences of gender-based violence pre-date armed conflict, and continue long after overt hostilities have ended. High levels of gender-based violence have long term-effects on survivors, their families and communities, and undermine stability, security and the reconstruction of social-tissue in post-conflict communities. A range of approaches, including, but not limited to criminal accountability therefore remain needed to prevent and respond to conflict-related gender-based violence. If TJ efforts fail to take into account these aspects, the chances are high that these efforts will not lead to long-lasting societal change.
Furthermore, it is important to note that women are not merely victims of violence; their voices can be powerful instigators of individual and community healing, as well as broader societal change. The participation of women in key-decision making processes for dealing with conflict-related violence remains nonetheless limited, which means that their priorities and needs are insufficiently met.
To this end, Impunity Watch has been working on gender since 2011 by conducting comparative research on the gender sensitivity of processes intended to encourage truth-seeking, justice, reparations and non-recurrence of violence in Burundi, Guatemala and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This research has been used to formulate policy advice and recommendations in particular on how to strengthen and empower women’s participation in TJ processes. During our research we noted that a tendency remains for “gender” to be equated with “women”, thereby neglecting the gendered roles and relationships between, and amongst men and women. While regard for masculinities within the women, peace and security agenda has been gradually emerging and gaining in prominence in recent years, it remains underexplored within transitional justice policy and practice to date.
We build on our research by developing programmes in Burundi & Guatemala. Impunity Watch, in the context of our current programmes, aims to address these outstanding needs by adopting a gender transformative approach. Such an approach moves beyond a gender-sensitive approach, and seeks to transform power structures and tackle gender inequality and discrimination as the underlying driver of gender-based violence. Our overall objective is to ensure that policy and programming on current and historic conflict-related gender-based violence are grounded in a gender transformative approach, and thus contribute to fostering greater gender equality.
To this end, evidence-based research is developed to inform national and international policy and practice. In Guatemala, we have conducted research that shares key lessons learned from the landmark Sepur Zarco verdict, which condemned sexual slavery during the armed conflict as a crime against humanity. Currently, we continue to seek to advance accountability for conflict-related violence against women more broadly by providing technical support to key judicial cases. Through our monitoring of the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, we also advocate for the adoption of a National Action Plan. Meanwhile in Burundi, we monitor the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in order to assess its gender-transformative nature and whether historical cases of gender based violence are addressed, while community dialogues are undertaken at the local level.
Our approach in both countries is grounded in support to the development of capacities of partners, local actors and women’s groups on gender-sensitivity, gender-based violence, inclusive masculinities and women’s participation. Targeted policy advice continues to be provided on attention to gender and the meaningful participation of women in transitional justice processes. To strengthen a gender relational approach, a research project on masculinities, gender-based violence and participation within transitional justice is also on-going.
Currently, IW’s gender work is rolled out within the framework of the “Tackling Violence Against Women Beyond Borders: Burundi, Guatemala & Liberia” programme in conjunction with Oxfam Ibis, as well as in the context of its work in Iraq together with PAX.
The Observatory of Judicial Independence is a tool to monitor and analyse the internal and external factors that threaten judicial independence in Guatemala.