International: Women’s and Girls’ Rights to Reparation and The Political Meaning of Caring

Women's Rights Coalition
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The idea of reparation can have multiple and sophisticated meanings: legal meanings, social justice meanings, and meanings involving the will to shared historical memories and a common understanding of the contribution that victims and survivors bring to rebuilding trust.
From a women’s rights perspective, reparation also corresponds to women and girls’ capacity to rebuild their lives by restoring their dignity and their sense of self. To rebuild their lives not as they were prior to war or conflict, but in a way that transforms sociocultural injustices and structural inequalities that predate the conflict.

Reparation is about the political meaning of caring.

Many members of the Coalition for Women’s Human Rights in Conflict Situations have worked to encourage reparation for sexual military slavery. Many came to the Coalition in the middle of the 90s driven by the need to ensure gender justice at the ICTR. We came together because we needed to “look after”, to end impunity for violations of women’s integrity.

The shame and secrecy, the concealment, the denials and indeed the continuation of violations must also be kept in mind when addressing the need for reparation for sexual crimes in times of conflict.

The pressing need to rebuild one’s relationship to oneself, to one’s family and to one’s community obliges us to demand that the state take an active role in enabling victims to move ahead and become true citizens in their society. Indeed, reparation is also about ensuring that victims can contribute to rebuilding their society.

Caring is an active manifestation of awareness. Politically, this means a will to change, to move ahead. Peace must mean more than the mere absence of war. [1] Caring is about what we make of what was made of us.

Women and girls’ right to reparation is not only about restitution, compensation, preservation of memory and access to judicial redress, it is about women playing an active role in repairing the social fabric and building afresh a just and equal society.

Women survivors, activists and jurists from Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and DRC have joined their sisters of Peru, Chile, Guatemala, Colombia, India, France, Great Britain, Belgium, United States and Canada [2] to develop the Nairobi Declaration. They have done so in the hopes that women's NGOs, women's network and human rights NGOs throughout the world will endorse this Declaration, and that committed States will seek to ensure that international, regional and national mechanisms – both judicial and non-judicial – understand the benefit and value of this Declaration and start promoting its principles.

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[1] Chris Hedges, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Anchor Books, June 2003.

[2] We wish here to recognize our sisters of Timor Leste who should have been part of the meeting but were unable to attend.