Gendered Narratives: Stories and Silences in Transitional Justice

Authored by: Elisabeth Porter

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Human Development, Political Transitions, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV)
Region: No Region
Year: 2016
Citation: Porter, Elisabeth. "Gendered Narratives: Stories and Silences in Transitional Justice." Human Rights Review 17, no. 1 (2016): 35-50.

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Executive Summary

Stories told about violence, trauma, and loss inform knowledge of post-conflict societies. Stories have a context which is part of the story-teller’s life narrative. Reasons for silences are varied. This article affirms the importance of telling and listening to stories and notes the significance of silences within transitional justice’s narratives. It does this in three ways. First, it outlines a critical narrative theory of transitional justice which confirms the importance of narrative agency in telling or withholding stories. Relatedly, it affirms the importance of story-telling as a way to explain differentiated gender requirements within transitional justice processes. Second, it examines gendered differences in the ways that women are silenced by shame, choose silence to retain self-respect, use silence as a strategy of survival, or an agential act. Third, it argues that compassionate listening requires gender-sensitive responses that recognize the narrator’s sense of self and needs.