The Importance of Gender-Sensitive Approach in Transitional Justice

The USAID New Justice Program, in partnership with the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), organized a series of webinars on the issues of transitional justice, which are currently urgent in the Ukrainian context of the ongoing armed conflict. The previous four webinars covered criminal liability and human rights issues during the period of transitional justice.

The final in a series of two webinars for the representatives of public authorities, local self-government bodies, and NGOs took place on July 14 and 21, 2021. The issues of implementing a gender-sensitive approach to forming the policy of transitional justice and the role of civil society organizations in advocacy for such an approach were offered for discussion.

During these events, lectors drew participants’ attention that a gender-sensitive approach can help better understand how committed violence affects survivors depending on their gender. The participants also addressed the importance of adjusting to the national context of transitional justice strategies so that the survivors of conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence would not be silent about it, based on South Africa’s example.

During the discussion with the participants, faculty noticed that often, in speaking about gender aspects of transitional justice, they were limited exclusively by women’s experience of human rights violations during armed conflict and, as a rule, reduced these violations only to sexual violations. At the same time, men’s experience is often not considered in terms of gender. Participants also had many questions about proving the facts of conflict-related sexual and gender-based crimes when it concerns prosecuting the perpetrators. In this regard, it is important to consider the complexity of obtaining evidence and a forensic report immediately after the crime was committed and after considerable time has elapsed. The faculty underlined that this requires a complex approach since such crimes are often massive and investigated as part of a pattern of violations committed under circumstances of armed control of a territory, based on a characterization of the conduct by the respective army unit, that is supported by different sources of evidence. This requires that the individual survivors’ statements are coherent with those patterns identified and proven by other means.

Besides, participants and lectors discussed issues of reparations for sexual and gender-based violence during the webinar. The lectors drew specific attention to the fact that reparation strategies must cover the direct impacts of crimes and provide compensation to the survivors and have a transformational effect, i.e., focus on those social factors that facilitated committing violence. In analyzing the challenges in implementing strategies of providing reparations to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and their transformational effect, the participants learned the examples of Columbia, East Timor, Mexico, Morocco, and Kosovo.

At the end of the webinar, the participants discussed the importance of the civil society organization’s role in documenting the information on human rights violations, including the instances of sexual and gender-based violence during armed conflict, advocacy, and support of survivors of such crimes and monitoring the application of transitional justice policies to protect human rights better.

As long as the armed conflict on the territory of Ukraine is still ongoing, the issues raised during the six webinars on transitional justice are aimed at facilitating the representatives of the public sector and civil society in finding efficient approaches to providing support to citizens who suffer as a result of the conflict.

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