and the Law
By every indicator of social well being, many women in
Africa are disadvantaged relative to men and as compared
to their female counterparts in other parts of the world.
The Women and the Law research program will explore the
role of law in capturing, legitimizing and entrenching
deep cultural norms and community practices that reinforce
and perpetuate the subordination of women in Africa.
Under this program, the Institute's researchers will study
how law reform can be used to improve the lives of women
both individually and collectively. Focusing on areas
of critical importance to African women, our research
will examine how legal norms can be utilized to eradicate
domestic and other forms of violence against women, and
how discriminatory property laws interact with patterns
of authority within the family, the tribe, the workplace
and the community to capture and lock women in a vicious
cycle of economic dependence that excludes them from full
participation in social, economic and political life.
But to ensure that African women are fully able to enjoy
their rights as coequal participants in society, their
concerns should not be considered in clinical isolation
from other human rights problems. Therefore, our research
in this area will identify approaches that will encourage
African countries to sign, ratify and implement
international treaties meant to foster and protect the
rights of women. In this regard, we will draw upon international
legal norms to ensure greater equality for African women,
especially those in vulnerable situations, for instance,
following family breakdown (that is, divorce, legal and
de facto separation) or during conflict when warring parties
often use rape, sexual abuse and violence to coerce, humiliate,
punish and intimidate women.