Missing Link of Power: Conceptualization of Empowerment within the Context of Reparations for Conflict Related Sexual Violence
Abstract: Intersection between gender and armed conflict has been overlooked for centuries. There was little to no understanding of gendered harm the conflict brings to women’s lives and means to redress it. With somewhat increased understanding of women’s experiences in conflict came the realization that tending to the multi-faceted needs of survivors is equally important and reparations for gross violations of women’s human rights can no longer be disregarded. Today transformative reparations for the victims of conflict related sexual violence are considered as one of the key features of transitional justice. Thesis aims to provide a theoretical approach to transformative reparations by exploring questions around survivor empowerment, the relationship between individual and society, processes that shape human interaction and ways the individual agency is constructed, enabled, or constrained in the practice of every day. Drawing on inter-disciplinary literature I investigated what are the impacts of long-term oppression and sexual violence on individual subjectivities of women and how does these factors play out in assessing women’s agency in post-conflict reconstruction. Taking into account the complexity of sexual violence, the broader societal structures which produces it and the impact it has on the survivor’s perception of themselves, I argue that first and foremost, when it comes to victims of conflict related sexual violence “empowerment’ should be understood as a process with the primary aim of helping to mitigate subjective obstacles survivors face, which is taking the power structures and their own embeddedness in those structures as given reality.
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