"While torture and abuse happened to most political prisoners, female detainees were treated differently in one crucial respect: their bodies became areas of power in the relationship between torturer and prisoner. Women faced rape or the threat of rape, forced abortions and constant verbal abuse about their sexuality."
South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) had complex engagements with questions of gender, and the experiences of women – both during the liberation struggle, and at the TRC itself.
Critiques of how the TRC handled women-specific issues abound. In terms of the TRC’s policies and frameworks, it was clear that gender-specific considerations had not been taken into account. The TRC”s “gender-blind” approach to dealing with the past implied that no distinction would be made between men and women’s experiences, despite the fact the women and men experienced apartheid differently, and thus faced different challenges in interacting with the TRC.
"There’s a saying in South Africa that women hold the sharp end of the knife. ‘Manguwana otsuara tipa tebogoleng.’ It is an elegant expression. It captures strength and resistance. It is also an image of brutality and oppression."