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Women’s Testimony and Collective Memory: Lessons From South Africa’s TRC and Rwanda’s Gacaca Courts

This article uses a comparative approach to elucidate the ways in which women’s testimony operated in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and in Rwanda’s gacaca courts, to draw out some important lessons for future mechanisms of transitional justice. The author argues that while restorative justice mechanisms allow more space for including women’s own experiences of human rightsviolation than conventional trials, they may pose greater danger for those who testify. A significant problem resulting from the narratives of both gacaca and the TRC is the way in which a ‘singular woman victim’ emerges that elides the complexity of women’s experiences in collective memory. It is feared that what has emerged from the official discourse of these two truth-seeking mechanisms is a one-dimensional female victim subject – in South Africa, she is of secondary importance, in Rwanda, she can only be Tutsi, and in both cases she is stripped of all agency, where rape becomes definitive of her experience. “

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