Towards Reparative Transformation: Revisiting the Impact of Violence against Women in a Post-TRC South Africa


Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) does not begin with conflict or political instability and end with a transition to peace or democracy.1

The idea of transformation was central to key mechanisms that facilitated the transition to democracy in South Africa. The 1994 elections secured the immediate transition of political power. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the South African Constitutional Court were designed to execute the long-term objectives of political transition by addressing the destructive harm of apartheid and the gross imbalance of social and economic power. Drawing on empirical research undertaken in South Africa in 2015, against a backdrop of critically high levels of sexual violence, this article examines the consequences of the TRC’s failure to investigate the impact of sexual violence against women during apartheid on women in the post-TRC era. Invoking the voices of contemporary South Africans 20 years after the TRC delivered its findings, the article offers a retrospective analysis of the capacity of transformative institutions, such as the TRC and the Constitutional Court, to alter the conditions that enabled, and continue to underlie, this violence, and to prevent its repetition.

Access the article from The International Journal for Transitional Justice, here:


The author, Prof Andrea Durbach, is the Director of the AHRCentre.

Read more about the research project: Transformative reparations to combat sexual violence against women in post-conflict settings