LAC Main Seminar Series: Sexual violence on trial. Impunity and transformative gender justice in post-conflict Latin America

Convener: Professor David Doyle

Speaker: Jelke Boesten (King’s College London)




In 2016, the case known as ‘Sepur Zarco’ saw two military officers convicted for crimes against humanity and sexual and domestic slavery in Guatemala. Following the analysis of Jo-Marie Burt (2019), the case had transformative effects on the victim-survivors as well as on the idea of gender justice more broadly. Considering this remarkable trial and its effects, in this paper I ask if criminal justice for conflict related sexual violence can bring about transformative gender justice in Latin America by unpacking ongoing trials in Peru. There, during the counterinsurgency against Shining Path (1980-2000) the military used sexual violence just as systematically as in Guatemala in the 1980s. However, impunity persists. The paper will reflect on the ongoing court case against thirteen ex-military in Peru, known as ‘Manta y Vilca’, to examine whether these difficult processes contribute to what we might call ‘transformative gender justice’ in Latin America.


jelke boesten week

Jelke Boesten is Professor in Gender and Development at the Department of International Development (DID), King’s College London. She is interested in transformative gender justice, and visual and embodied research methodologies. She has written extensively on sexual violence in war and in peace, social policy and politics, and gender-based violence in Latin America. Her latest book co-edited book (with Helen Scanlon, UCT) is Gender and Memorial Arts: from Symbolic Reparations to Protest Movement (2021). She is the convenor of the Gender Studies Network at King’s, and co-lead on the Visual and Embodied Methodologies Network. She also hosts