Source: (2009) Violence Against Women. 15(10): 1169-1193.

This article argues that the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), whose aim was to uncover the truth of the atrocities perpetrated under apartheid and develop a framework for reconciliation, failed to reveal the truth about women's experience of sexual violence under apartheid as well as continued "peacetime" violence against women in South Africa. Although it is increasingly evident that women are vulnerable to rape by soldiers from the “other” side as a means of showing the failure of their men as protectors, it has also become clear that women are being raped by soldiers from their own country and by peacekeepers; in both cases, women are being raped by soldiers who are supposedly their protectors. The TRC failed to recognize and address this ongoing violence against women in war and postwar because of the priority given to civil and political rights violations over economic and social rights violations, the adoption of a gender-neutral approach to truth collection, and the criteria used for dispensing amnesty. This article also identifies some consequences of the failure to expose the truth about sexual violence against women during and after apartheid, including its impact on the government’s reparations policy and continued “peacetime” violence against women in South Africa. A person could only be considered a victim and eligible for reparations if he/she came forward to tell of the nature of the victimization. Many victims of sexual violence undoubtedly faced a difficult choice, i.e., to risk estrangement from their families and social exclusion, or making themselves ineligible for reparations. Thus, the TRC failed to set the stage for the creation of a peacetime democratic culture in South Africa with a firm foundation in respect for women’s rights and a priority response to women’s distinctive vulnerability to sexual assault and economic hardship. (abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,