Transforming Reparations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: Principles and Practice

Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Catherine O'Rourke, Aisling Swaine

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The United Nations Secretary-General’s adoption of a Guidance Note onReparations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (2014) marks an importantsupplement to recent normative developments in the area of gendersensitivereparations. Despite these progressive normative advances, thereremain conceptual gaps in the legal and policy framework for reparationsaddressing conflict-related sexual violence and, consequently, ongoingchallenges in the implementation of gender-sensitive reparations, whichthis Article identifies. Challenges include the exclusion of women fromlegal remedies due to definitional, operational, and enforcement bias inthe creation and implementation of reparation regimes. Moreover, a limitedunderstanding of who can be the victim of sexual harm means thatviolence against men is often unseen and unaccounted for when states andother international actors conceive and implement reparations. This Articlecomprehensively reviews international and domestic practices, addressinglegal rules, policy debates, and reparations programming for conflictrelatedsexual violence. In doing so, the analysis mediates the gap betweennorm and implementation by surveying common approaches and promisinginnovations in reparations delivery. The Article concludes that a commitmentto transformative reparations is critical to gender-sensitive reparations.Transformative reparations address the immediate reparative needsof survivors of sexual harm, while also being fully cognizant of the socialand economic barriers to full equality for women in many societies. Thus,transformative reparations go beyond the immediacy of sexual violence,encompassing the equality, justice, and longitudinal needs of those whohave experienced sexual harms. To this end, we propose ten practice-basedprinciples to inform future reparations practice in judicial, peacemaking,and programming contexts for conflict-related sexual violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-146
JournalHarvard Human Rights Journal
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Jul 2015


  • Reparations
  • transitional justice
  • gender
  • conflict-related sexual violence


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