FWSA Book with treeWe are delighted to announce that the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association UK and Ireland (FWSA) Small Grants Scheme 2014 are Stephanie Chaban and Rimona Afana.

Their postgraduate event entitled ‘Symposium on Occupation, Transitional Justice and Gender’, will be held in April 2015 at the University of Ulster and the following is a section from their winning pitch.

This symposium seeks to explore the interface between occupation, transitional justice and gender. The starting point for exploration is based in feminist concerns that are broadly focused on issues of power, control and hierarchies. More specifically, feminist theorizing acknowledges that women’s needs during times of occupation, conflict, and/or transition are often ignored, sidelined or essentialized. While much research has explored transitional justice and gender (O’Rourke, 2013; Bell and O’Rourke, 2007; and Ní Aoláin and Turner, 2007), there has been limited research on the relationship and complexities of occupation and gender (Shalhoub-Kevorkian, 2009). Furthermore, there is a dearth of research on how these three concepts intersect, inform and/or impact each other.

Internationally, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) acknowledges the unique impact of armed conflict on women and calls for their heightened presence in matters of peace and security. While groundbreaking, UN SCR has been difficult to implement on the ground. Subsequent resolutions (UNSCR 1820, 1888, 1960) however, have homed in on women’s experiences of sexual violence, and little else. Yet, preoccupations with motherhood, communal honour, and women’s so-called vulnerabilities are often the core foci of not only the international community, but local and regional actors as well. As the perceived location of honor and the bearers of future generations, women’s bodies exert special meaning during conflict, occupation and transition. For example, some would argue that in Afghanistan and Iraq the situation for women, politically, legally and socially has become worse in the transitional and post-conflict periods; a problematic combination of occupation, militarization, human rights rhetoric, and so-called ‘development’ and ‘modernization’ efforts.

Additionally, governments and donors’ fixation on women’s experiences of sexual violence during conflict highlights the single-issue mentality that is prevalent in humanitarian and development work (Engle, 2013). Such a focus echoes (and solidifies) the motherhood, communal honour, and vulnerabilities conundrum. Recent examples, such as the forthcoming Global Summit on Sexual Violence hosted by William Hague and Angelina Jolie, testify to the single-issue narrative that obscures the needs of most women and girls during occupation and conflict. Likewise, in the post-conflict or transitional period, women’s involvement in conflict resolution, peacekeeping, peace-building, institution-building, truth-seeking, and memorialization may be limited, essentialized, or peripheral, as was seen most recently in the parallel women’s summit to counter the Geneva talks on Syria in late 2013. These are just some of the issues of concern when exploring the interface between occupation, transitional justice and gender, but not all; a greater interrogation is needed.

The conflict-affected (or post-conflict) landscape in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel/Palestine offer significant capacity to undertake case studies of the gendered impact of occupation and transitional justice mechanisms. For instance, how can scholars and activists make sense of the so-called transformative occupation (Roberts, 2006) in Iraq or Afghanistan or the prolonged occupation (Falk, 1989; Roberts, 1990) in Palestine, where occupation intersects colonialism? More recently, there has been a wealth of research and discussion examining gender and transition during the so-called Arab Spring/Winter and the unrelenting civil conflict in Syria, but the incorporation of transition and occupation is an under researched/explored area.

As coordinators of this symposium, we ask what might be the approach in exploring the interface between occupation and transitional justice while utilizing a gendered lens? How does law capture modern instances of occupation that do not fit neatly into the existing legal coding? Can transitional justice mechanisms be employed while there is an occupation? Can such mechanisms take the gendered needs of the population into account? Can the exceptionality of occupation reveal gender differences unapparent in normal settings and, if so, what are their implications for transitional justice theory and praxis?