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The Rights of Women in Transitional Justice

Conor Hill

School of Law

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

The scales of Justice
The scales of Justice

The United Nations defines transitional justice as “the full range of processes and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempts to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses, in order to ensure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation”. [1] United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 requires that states “ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict,” including transitional justice processes and mechanisms. However, 20 years since the Resolution was passed, scholars continue to argue that conflict prevention, management and resolution processes are gendered - biased to men’s advantage - and this results in women’s continued exclusion from these processes. [2] Transitional justice literature frequently addresses the problems that occur in transitional justice processes. However, while much scholarship is dedicated to documenting and trying to solve these problems, less attention has been paid to how and why these problems continue to arise.

Discussion of human rights, and women’s rights in particular, is commonplace in the transitional justice field. Feminist scholars researching women’s experiences in conflict and transition have proposed that the full implementation of international human rights law may improve transitional outcomes for women. [3] Others have suggested that giving effect to economic and social rights, in particular, may address the root causes of conflict and prevent further violence. [4] Scholarship has proposed the existence of rights specific to the transitional context, for example, rights to justice or truth. [5]

This project will undertake a critical analysis of transitional justice processes, asking “what rights do women have under law in the transitional justice context?” This question will be answered using a spatiotemporal analysis based in legal geography. In legal geography, law is not an abstract object. Rather, law and space are mutually constitutive, with each being shaped by the other through a constant and dynamic process of iteration and reiteration. [6] This project will consider individual transitional justice mechanisms and transitional justice generally as spaces which constantly change over time.

The paper argues that this legal geographical methodology lends itself to unique analysis of transitional justice. By illuminating the relationships and dynamics at play between space, law, and women as subjects of transitional justice processes, the project hopes to uncover how contemporary transitional justice models fail to facilitate women’s’ participation in these processes, and how these failures compromise the capacity of the processes to “provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels” in accordance with UN Sustainable Development Goal 16.


1. Guidance Note of the Secretary-General, “United Nations Approach to Transitional Justice (2010)

2. K Brown and F Ní Aoláin, “Through the Looking Glass: Transitional Justice Futures through the Lens of Nationalism, Feminism and Transformative Change” (2015) 9 International Journal of Transitional Justice 127

3. See, e.g. M Rees & C Chinkin, “Exposing the Gendered Myth of Post Conflict Transition: The Transformative Power of Economic and Social Rights” (2016) 48 NYU J Int'l L & Pol 1211; C Chinkin & M Kaldor, “Gender and New Wars,” (2013) 67(1) Journal of International Affairs 167.

4. See, e.g. P Gready & S Robins, “From Transitional to Transformative Justice: A New Agenda for Practice” (2014) 8(3) International Journal of Transitional Justice 339; P McAuliffe, “Dividing the Spoils: The Impact of Power Sharing on Possibilities for Socioeconomic Transformation in Postconflict States” (2017) 11 IJTJ 197

5. See, e.g. J Mendez, “Accountability for Past Abuses” (1997) 19 Human Rights Quarterly 255

6. D Delaney, "Legal Geography I: Constitutives, complexities and contingencies" (2015) 39(1) Progress in Human Geography 96, 98

Author retains copyright of text. Image courtesy of Wix.

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