South Africa: TRC and Gender

South Africa: TRC and Gender

South Africa: TRC and Gender Date distributed (ymd): 960823


August 15, 1996

Issued by: Truth and Reconciliation Commission

For immediate release:

JOHANNESBURG -- The Truth and Reconciliation Commission today approved a proposal that special hearings dedicated to women's testimony should be arranged in different parts of South Africa.

A full meeting of the Commission, held in Johannesburg, also resolved that "women need to be encouraged to speak out" about human rights violations which they have suffered. "There is a need to break the silence," the Commission said. "There is a lot of evidence of abuse of women in a political context, but this is in the private domain."

The Commission also noted that the presence of male Commissioners on TRC hearings panels may inhibit women in their testimony, and suggested that the composition of panels be negotiated with witnesses.

The full text of a report on the "TRC and Gender", as adopted by the Commission, follows:

"The mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is to establish as complete a picture as possible of the cases, nature and extent of the gross violations of human rights which were committed during the period March 1960 and December 1993. The antecedents, circumstances, factors and the contexts of such violations, as well as the motives of such violations, as well as the perspectives of the persons responsible for committing such violations should be established.

"The Commission, in response to a submission by Beth Goldblatt and Dr Sheila Meinjies, tasked Commissioners Yasmin Sooka and Glenda Wildschut to advise the Commission on how to respond to the submission.

"The submission was prepared following a workshop on Gender and the Truth Commission. A detailed analysis of women's experience of repression over the 33 years of the mandate of the Commission informed the very solid recommendations in the report.

"The report also draws attention to the issues of amnesty, reparations and gender-specific violence perpetrated by members of the security and liberation forces.


"The TRC's response to the submission was very favourable. That violence against women and the specific sensitive nature of the types of violations against women warrants close attention by the TRC was accepted without question.

"The sub-group mandated by the Commission planned a workshop with a much broader representation of women to thoroughly discuss and debate how human rights abuse of women, in particular, needs to be dealt with by the TRC.

"The 40th anniversary of the march to the Union Buildings and National Women's Day seemed an appropriate time to host the workshop. The aim and objective of the workshop was to consult as broadly a possible the feasibility of the women's hearing and how that hearing should be conducted.

"142 individuals and organisations were invited to the workshop. Those organisations and individuals who could not attend were asked to make written comments on the questions posed by the workshop. In this way we were able to illicit as diverse opinions as possible.

"This report will not go into detail of the workshop, but would rather highlight the recommendations which came out of the workshop.

"RECOMMENDATIONS: (Accepted by the Commission on August 15):

-- Women will need a special hearing. Each region should hold at least one hearing dedicated to women.

-- The TRC should be sensitive to the cultural norms in specific communities to gender issues.

-- Women need to be encouraged to speak out, there is a need to break the silence. There is a lot of evidence of abuse of women in a political context, but this is in the private domain.

-- The TRC needs to act as a facilitator to empower women to tell their stories.

Some useful suggestions are: --- some women can tell stories on behalf of others. --- groups of women could come together and tell their stories as a collective --- hearings can be held in camera.

-- The presence of men on the panels may paralyse some women, therefore the composition of the panel should be negotiated with the testifiers.

-- Commissioners should receive training on gender-related issues.

-- Preparatory workshops, especially for rural women, should be held especially about how to deal with the media.

-- Church women's groups should be engaged to assist women to tell their stories.

-- Women as perpetrators also need attention.

-- Reparations policy should not be gender blind."


Truth and Reconciliation Commission PO Box 3162 Cape Town 8000 South Africa Tel: +27-21-24-5161 Fax: +27-21-24-5225 E-mail: WWW:

************************************************************ The complete text of the recent submissions made to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by the African National Congress and the National Party are available on the World Wide Web at each party's Web site.

The African National Congress statement appears at:

The National Party statement appears at:


Message-Id: <> From: "APIC" <> Date: Fri, 23 Aug 1996 16:57:26 -0500 Subject: South Africa: TRC and Gender

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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