Feminist Legal Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 71–97 | Cite as

The Transitional Justice Gap: Exploring ‘Everyday’ Gendered Harms and Customary Justice in South Kivu, DR Congo

  • Holly DunnEmail author


Feminist transitional justice (TJ) has greatly contributed to the study of justice in the ruins of war, notably around prosecuting wartime rape. At the same time, scholars have observed limitations to this research agenda such as externally-driven definitions gendered harms and how to address them. This paper explores two novel areas for feminist TJ research: ‘everyday gendered harms’ and customary justice. Based on a three month field study of baraza, a customary justice mechanism in parts of South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, I explore three cases of ‘everyday’ harms against women: domestic violence, polygynous relationships and witchcraft. Through a substantive examination of these baraza cases, I highlight how studying the contextualised functioning of customary justice mechanisms provides new insights into different areas of feminist TJ scholarship, including women’s participation in the transition, justice for harms against women, and advancing gender equality. Additionally, this paper adds to the broader TJ literature by engaging with local TJ needs as they pertain to people’s everyday life in transition.


Baraza Customary justice Democratic Republic of Congo Gender-based violence Rule of law Transitional justice 



I am grateful to Doris Buss, Gabrielle Ferrales, Ore Koren, Lisa Hilbink, Milli Lake, Bridget Marchesi, Oanh Nguyen, Augustine Park, and Blair Rutherford, as well as the anonymous reviewers and editors, for their feedback and comments on earlier iterations of this manuscript. Any remaining weaknesses are, of course, the author’s own.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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