Redressing Sexual Violence in Transitional Justice and the Labelling of Women as “Victims”

  • Susanne Buckley-ZistelEmail author


The chapter discusses the implications of labelling women who have experienced sexual violence in times of war and repression as “victims” in discourse and practice of transitional justice. It is based on the assumption that men and women become targets of sexual violence primarily due to their respective gender roles in a society and argues that as a consequence the prevention of future violence requires a significant modification of these gender relations (or power asymmetries) and that a focus on masculinities is essential to understanding these dynamics. This chapter marks a first attempt to conceptualise the link between masculinities, sexual violence and the advancement of gender justice through transitional justice processes. Can the focus on women in the context of crime tribunals, in particular, contribute to more gender justice in the post-conflict society?


Sexual violence Masculinities Transitional justice Victims Labelling Gender Women 


  1. Beasley C (2008) Rethinking hegemonic masculinities in a globalizing world. Men Masculinities 11:86–103Google Scholar
  2. Bourdieu P (1997) Die männliche Herrschaft. In: Dölling I, Krais B (eds) Ein alltägliches Spiel. Geschlechterkonstruktion in der sozialen Praxis. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main, pp. 153–217Google Scholar
  3. Bracewell W (2000) Rape in Kosovo: masculinity and Serbian nationalism. Nations Natl 6:563–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Buss DE (2009) Rethinking “rape as a weapon of war”. Feminist Legal Stud 17:145–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cahn N, Ni Aolain F, Haynes DF (2009) Gender, masculinities, and transition in conflicted societies. N Engl Law Rev 44:101–122Google Scholar
  6. Campbell K (2007) The gender of transitional justice: law, sexual violence and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Int J Transitional Justice 1:411–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Connell RW (2000) Arms and the man: using new research on masculinity to understand violence and promote peace in the contemporary world. In: Breines I, Connell RW, Eide I (eds) Male roles, masculinities and violence: a culture of peace perspective. UNESCO Publishing, Paris, pp. 21–33Google Scholar
  8. Connell RW (2005) Masculinities. Polity Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  9. Davis CG, Nolen-Hoeksema S, Larson J (1998) Making sense of loss and benefiting from the experience: two construals of meaning. J Pers Soc Psychol 75:561–574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Elshtain JB (1987) Women and war. Harvester, BrightonGoogle Scholar
  11. Eriksson Baaz M (2009) Why do soldiers rape? Masculinity, violence, and sexuality in the armed forces in the Congo (DRC). Int Stud Q 53:495–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Franke KM (2006) Gendered subjects of transitional justice. Columbia J Gender Law 15:813–828Google Scholar
  13. Goldblatt B (2006) Evaluating the gender content of reparations: lessons from South Africa. In: Rubio-Marin R (ed) What happened to the women? Gender and reparations for human rights violations. International Center for Transitional Justice, New York, pp. 48–91Google Scholar
  14. Hagemann O (1992) Victims of violent crime and their coping processes. In: Viano EC (ed) Critical issues in victimology: international perspectives. Springer, New York, pp. 58–67Google Scholar
  15. Hamber B (2007) Masculinity and transitional justice: an exploratory essay. Int J Transitional Justice 1:375–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kapur R (2002) The tragedy of victimization rhetoric: resurrecting the “native” subject in international/post-colonial feminist legal politics. Harv Hum Rights J 15:1–38Google Scholar
  17. Kennedy D (2001) The international human rights movement: part of the problem? Harv Hum Rights J 15:101–125Google Scholar
  18. Madlingozi T (2010) On transitional justice entrepreneurs and the production of victims. J Hum Rights Pract 2:208–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mageza-Barthel R (2012) Asserting their presence! Women’s quest for transitional justice in post-genocide Rwanda. In: Buckley-Zistel S, Stanley R (eds) Gender in transitional justice. Palgrave, Basingstoke, pp. 163–190Google Scholar
  20. Maedl A (2011) Rape as a weapon of war in Eastern Congo? A victims’ perspective. Hum Rights Q 33:128–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mertus J (2004) Shouting from the bottom of a well. The impact of international trials for wartime rape on women’s agency. Int Feminist J Politics 6:110–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Meuser M (2002) “Doing Masculinity”—Zur Geschlechtslogik männlichen Gewalthandelns. In: Dackweiler R-M, Schäfer M (eds) Gewaltverhältnisse. Feministische Perspektiven auf Geschlecht und Gewalt. Campus, Frankfurt am Main, pp. 53–78Google Scholar
  23. Pietsch S (2010) Women’s participation and benefit of the liberian truth and reconciliation commission—voices from the field. MA dissertation, Center for Conflict Studies, Philipps-University Marburg (unpublished)Google Scholar
  24. Rubio-Marin R (2006) Introduction. The gender of reparations: setting the Agenda. In: Rubio-Marin R (ed) What happened to the women? Gender and reparations for human rights violations. International Center for Transitional Justice, New York, pp. 20–47Google Scholar
  25. Seifert R (1996) The second front. The logic of sexual violence in war. Women’s Stud Int Forum 19:35–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sigsworth R, Valji N (2011) Continuities of violence against women in South Africa: the limitations of transitional justice. In: Buckley-Zistel S, Stanley R (eds) Gender in transitional justice. Palgrave, Basingstoke, pp. 115–135Google Scholar
  27. Spivak G (1988) Can the subaltern speak? In: Grossberg L, Nelson C (eds) Marxism and the interpretation of culture. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, pp. 271–313Google Scholar
  28. Theidon K (2009) Reconstructing masculinities: the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants in Columbia. Hum Rights Q 31:1–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Zur O (2005) The psychology of victimhood. In: Wright RH, Cummings NA (eds) Destructive trends in mental health. Routledge, New York, pp. 45–64Google Scholar

Copyright information

© T.M.C. ASSER PRESS, The Hague, The Netherlands, and the authors 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philipps-University MarburgMarburgGermany

Personalised recommendations