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Lowell Humanities Lecture Features Professor Ruth Rubio Marín

As part of the Lowell Humanities Lecture series, Professor Ruth Rubio Marín gave a lecture on transitional justice on Thursday night.

“Reparations for Historical Violence: Learning from Transitional Justice?” was the sixth lecture in the series this year. The Lowell Humanities Series began in 1957 and has since brought many famous authors, speakers, and professors to Boston College.

Marín is a professor of constitutional law at the University of Sevilla, as well as a faculty member at New York University. She is also the director of the Gender and Governance Programme at the School of Transnational Governance at the European University Institute and has worked for the United Nations and European Union in the past.   

In addition to being a part of the Lowell Humanities Series, the lecture was also part of a two-day conference titled “Towards Transitional Justice: Recognition, Truth-telling, and Institutional Abuse in Ireland.” The conference featured survivors of institutional abuse, as well as scholars, Boston College faculty members, and activists.

Transitional justice is a framework for achieving justice for survivors and victims of institutional abuse, which—in the context of this lecture—was abuse sponsored by the Catholic church and state of Ireland.

According to the conference website, transitional justice “puts survivors and victims at the heart of the process. It commits to pursuing justice through truth. It aims to achieve not only individual justice, but a wider societal transition from more repressive times, to move from one era to another. Taking a transitional justice approach means that we will find out and record the truth, ensure accountability, make reparation, undertake institutional reform, and achieve reconciliation.”

Professor Marín began by dedicating her lecture to survivors of abuse in Ireland, who were mainly women. Marín first highlighted Magdalene Laundries, also known as mother and baby homes. Magdalene Laundries were institutions usually run by the Catholic church in Ireland that took in mothers who had children out of wedlock.

Similarly, women who were deemed to be “immoral” or committed crimes were sent to these laundries. Women in these laundries were subject to slave-like conditions and abuse.

In evaluating ways to obtain redress for this abuse, Professor Marín drew from her past experiences dealing with reparations after conflict in countries such as Morocco and Colombia.

She discussed 5 modalities of this reparation: restitution (recovering one’s identity), economic compensation, rehabilitation (medical and psychological care), satisfaction (obtaining accountability), and a guarantee that it would not reoccur.

In her lecture, Marín explained the importance of accountability and official recognition of responsibility. “Recognition is the cornerstone of reparations,” she explained. “The symbolic dimension of redress is just as important as the material dimension.”

Although economic compensation has been achieved for the victims in Ireland, official apologies and recognition of the abuse have been hard to come by.

In conclusion, Marín explained that although we often view events such as the institutional abuse in Ireland to be historical, there are still survivors and many more people who have been affected. As such, the abuse cannot be considered historical until redress is fully made.

Professor Ruth Rubio Marín is currently working on her book The Disestablishment of Gender in the New Millennium Constitutionalism. She has already written 40 articles and authored or edited 8 other books.