What About the Women? Transitional Justice and Gender in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Northern Ireland

Authored by: Michael Potter and Hedley Abernethy

Categories: Statebuilding, Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: Peacemaking, Political Transitions, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Transitional Justice
Country: Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Region: Europe and Eurasia
Year: 2013
Citation: Potter, Michael, and Hedley Abernethy. "What About the Women? Transitional Justice and Gender in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Northern Ireland." In Transitional Justice and Civil Society in the Balkans, edited by Olivera Simic and Zala Volcic, 163-80. New York: Springer, 2013.

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Executive Summary

In 2004, the United Nations Secretary-General submitted a report to the Security Council concerning the rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies. In his report Kofi Annan stated that “it is imperative that both the Security Council and the United Nations system carefully consider the particular rule of law and justice needs in each host country.” This “imperative” included “the situation and role of women.” Despite that call from the Secretary-General, there is evidence that rather than the situation and role of women being considered in post-conflict societies, that role has actually taken a regressive step. A desire to return to a state of pre-conflict “normality” has impinged negatively on the needs and place of women. It has been noted that periods of violent conflict may alter traditional gender roles within societies with violence (and the seeming preoccupation of men by that violence) by offering women increased opportunities to have a greater say in decision-making processes. This is especially prevalent in the domestic sphere. Peace and the cessation of violence, however, seem to reverse these trends with a compulsion to return to the homeostasis that existed prior to the outbreak of violence. This means that women, who may have been marginalized prior to the outbreak of violence, return to that state of marginalization despite the possibilities of transformation in a post-conflict society. In this chapter, the authors examine the place of women in two post-conflict societies—Bosnia and Herzegovina and Northern Ireland. They will use the critical lens of transitional justice and research carried out in the two regions to bring clarity as to the factors behind the continued disempowerment of women in rebuilding a society emerging from a violent past.