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Women and the Rwandan Gacaca Courts: Gender, Genocide and Justice

BREWER, BETHANY,ANNE (2023) Women and the Rwandan Gacaca Courts: Gender, Genocide and Justice. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis examines the gacaca trials of women accused of involvement in the perpetration of the Rwandan genocide, paying particular attention to the role of ideas about their gender in this justice process. It uses court reports of the trials of ninety-one accused women; a set of sources that provides novel insights into the defences, testimonies, and agency of accused women in a transitional justice institution. Thematic, statistical, and close textual analysis of these sources reveal a tension in the relationship between gacaca’s stated aim of revealing the ‘truth’ of the genocide and its perpetrators, and the ability of accused women to use ideas about their gender to avoid facing punishment for charges of genocide. Members of local communities combined with this state institution to produce a state-authorised ‘truth’ narrative that ordinary Rwandan women were incapable of acting to perpetrate the genocide, and that those women who had participated were gendered anomalies. In doing so, the gacaca process failed to confront fully women’s genocide involvement.

This analysis also identifies contradictions between accused women’s agency in court and the wider assumption that women acting and speaking in such a public setting is automatically ‘empowering’. Accused women often exerted agency through forms other than speech acts, including using silence to avoid generating knowledge of their genocide involvement. Where women’s agency did come through speech, such speech acts often contributed to public narratives of women’s inability to commit genocide, with individual women achieving successful trial outcomes through the denial of women’s capacity to act. Additionally, accused women’s forced participation in gacaca contributed to the legitimation of a punitive process that produced authority for the Rwandan regime, and that generated a version of the post-genocide state that exercised control over contemporary Rwandan women’s behaviour.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Rwanda; gacaca; transitional justice; women; genocide
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 May 2023 15:29

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