Defying the victim-perpetrator binary: female ex-combatants in Colombia and Guatemala as complex political perpetrators

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Victimhood has become central to the field of transitional justice, leading to rather simplified ideas about and rigid distinctions between victims and perpetrators. Female ex-combatants tend to be regarded in stereotypical ways, either as victims of forced recruitment or as deviant monsters. In reality, their experiences are often more complex, and can consist not only of having participated in but also having suffered violence, both direct and structural. Membership of armed groups can produce emancipatory experiences and instances of agency as well. This article uses the multi-layered experiences of female ex-combatants in Colombia and Guatemala to argue for the application of a complex political perpetrator lens to address female ex-combatants in transitional justice mechanisms. It shows how the inclusion of more complex gendered understandings of perpetrators’ experiences can promote reconciliation and foster dialogue about the connections between structural and direct gendered violence, to achieve more gender-transformative transitions.

Bibliographic note

Not yet published as of 04/05/2021.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages37
JournalInternational Journal of Transitional Justice
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 25 Nov 2020