Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

Wanted: Transformative Justice for Women

10 September 2014

During the 27th session of the Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organised a panel to discuss gender in transitional justice, and in particular the issue of reparations for conflict-related sexual violence.

Addressing sexual violence in transitional justice

Transitional justice refers to the set of judicial and non-judicial measures, such as criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, memory initiatives, reparations, and institutional reforms, implemented in order to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses.

Living Proof - Birth in NepalThe experts in the panel agreed that although much progress has been made in terms of addressing gender and women issues within the framework of transitional justice, there is still a long way to go.

Women are too often perceived as victims while they should be involved as civil society representatives and community leaders. In many conflict-affected countries, victims see little judicial action against perpetrators of sexual violence.

Additionally, institutional reforms are generally slow and sporadic while it is of the utmost importance to reform the security sector in the aftermath of a conflict: indeed, sexual and gender-based violence in times of conflict is commonly perpetrated by regular armies and armed groups.

Women’s access to justice

In accessing justice, whether it is in transitional justice or outside a post-conflict context, women face numerous barriers and obstacles. Justice has a cost that many women living in poverty cannot afford; in addition, they are often discriminated against and re-victimised due to gender stereotypes.

Women’s safety is not always guaranteed when they provide testimonies or submit complaints, and there is a clear lack of health and psychological assistance to the victims, in particular victims of sexual violence.

In addition, in both transitional and outside post-conflict contexts, women very often do not even obtain reparations, or only on a very limited scale. Yet, reparations are a key element in the whole access to justice issue.

Reparations should not merely be remedies, they also have to be adequate and prompt, and should suit women’s needs, in order to ensure that justice also has long-term transformative impacts for victims and the society as a whole.

What to do?

The OHCHR and UN Women have recently published a guidance note on reparations for victims of sexual violence. In addition, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is currently drafting a General Recommendation on access to justice.

However, although the transformative potential of transitional justice is undeniable, transforming power relations based on gender will take an extremely long time.

Legislations and guidelines are not sufficient to build new and more equal societies. It’s a long-term process that must also include a change in the society’s mentality. Indeed, beyond justice, it is vital to shift the stigma from victims to perpetrators of sexual violence, to ensure a fair and impartial justice system for women.


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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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