Gender, Responsibility, and the Grey Zone: Considerations for Transitional Justice

Authored by: Erin Baines

Categories: Human Rights, Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR), National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Sexual and Reproductive Health, Transitional Justice
Country: Uganda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic
Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2011
Citation: Baines, Erin. "Gender, Responsibility, and the Grey Zone: Considerations for Transitional Justice." Journal of Human Rights 10, no. 4 (2011): 477-93.

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Executive Summary

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has forcibly recruited tens of thousands of youth from northern Uganda, Southern Sudan, and more presently the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. The longer that abducted youth spend inside the armed group, the more likely they will assume positions of command. These roles are differentiated on the basis of sex and gender expectations: young men are more likely to become active combatants and young women are more likely to become forced “wives” and mothers. As a result, forcibly recruited male and female youth are assumed to hold different degrees of responsibility. Comparing the life stories of an abducted male and female youth who became LRA commanders, I argue that each made choices within a state of coerced militarized masculinity. The question of responsibility must be located in the context of a present-day grey zone, and must unsettle gendered assumptions about men and women, and guilt and innocence. Transitional justice has only begun to grapple with the ambiguity of gender, responsibility, and the grey zone.