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Abstract

Women and girls had a specific and gendered experience of the civil war in Sierra Leone. They filled the role of combatants, ‘bush wives’, child soldiers, and sexual slaves. As a result of these roles, women are often described as having dual identities of both perpetrators and victims of violence. This duality resulted in the complex question of how to help these women both reintegrate into society and also address the crimes which they are alleged to have committed during the war. In this paper, I argue that these women and girls should be treated as victims due to the fact that their crimes were committed under coercion. I investigate the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process, performing a critique of its gendered assumptions and its inability to provide adequate assistance to females coerced into combat. I perform a critical analysis of the formation and efficacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). I investigate the Special Court’s treatment of the women and girls who were victims coerced into war and potentially held responsible as if they were perpetrators. In doing so, critical deconstruction of the treatment of these women highlights both the hybrid court’s successes and failures in advocating for these women. Throughout the paper, I explore the question of how the post-conflict reconstruction process should treat women and girls, who are victims but who have discursively been positioned also as perpetrators.

Note on the Author

Laura Cullen is a recent graduate from The University of Western Ontario in Canada with a Master of Arts in Women’s Studies and Feminist Research in Collaboration with Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction. Her research is focused on feminist theory, transitional justice, international justice, and post-conflict reconstruction. Specifically, her master’s research centered around the conflict and post-conflict process in Sierra Leone with a focus on women’s ability to bear witness and give testimony at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. She is currently gearing her research towards the current mechanisms of justice and the potential of bottom-up approaches to post-conflict reconstruction with the goal of pursuing her PhD and an academic career.

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