Transitional Justice in South Africa and Brazil: Introducing an Gendered Approach to Reconciliation

Authored by: Galina Nelaeva; Natalia Sidorova

Categories: Peace Support Operations
Sub-Categories: Peacemaking, Post-Conflict Reconstruction
Year: 2019
Citation: Galina Nelaeva; Natalia Sidorova, "Transitional Justice in South Africa and Brazil: Introducing an Gendered Approach to Reconciliation," BRICS Law Journal 6, no. 2 (2019): 82-107

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The concept of transitional justice has been associated with the periods of political change when a country emerges from a war or turmoil and attempts to address the wrongdoings of the past. Among various instruments of transitional justice, truth commissions stand out as an example of a non-judicial form of addressing the crimes of the past. While their setup and operation can be criticized on different grounds, including excessive politization of hearings and the virtual impossibility of meaningfully assessing their impact, it has been widely acknowledged in the literature that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa can be regarded as a success story due to its relatively strong mandate and widespread coverage and resonance it had in South African society. We would like to compare this commission from the 1990s with a more recent example, the Brazilian National Truth Commission, so as to be able to address the question of incorporation of gendered aspects in transitional justice (including examination of sexual violence cases, representation of women in truth-telling bodies, etc.), since gender often remains an overlooked and silenced aspect in such initiatives. Gendered narratives of transitional justice often do not fit into the wider narratives of post-war reconciliation. A more general question addressed in this research is whether the lack of formal procedure in truth commissions facilitates or hinders examination of sexual crimes in transitional settings.