IPID Talk: Everyday Gendered Harms & Customary Justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo

IPID Talk: Everyday Gendered Harms and Customary Justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Presenter: Holly Dunn, University of Minnesota, Political Science

When: November 13th from 2-3 PM

Where: Walter library, Room 405

Baraza Mediators

Holly with baraza mediators

Sexual violence against women in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has garnered international attention, eliciting calls to end impunity and prosecute wartime rape. However, ‘everyday harms,’ often worsened by armed conflict, have gone largely understudied and insufficiently addressed by the revamped state legal system. Instead, individuals often turn to customary justice systems to deal with these harms. Based on a three month field study of baraza, a customary justice mechanism in the eastern DRC, I explore three common forms of everyday gendered harms against women: domestic violence, polygynous relationships and witchcraft accusations. These harms have been inadequately addressed by the legal system. My paper suggests that developing an understanding of local norms and beliefs helps explain the continued importance of customary justice systems for dealing with ‘everyday’ gendered harms against women, as well as an awareness of the constraints within which these systems function. I argue that customary justice is a complex and contested space where gender inequality can be both challenged and reproduced.

Women as agents of change

Women protestors from a protest in November 2011