Feminist Legal Studies

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 47–69 | Cite as

The right to culture and the culture of rights: a critical perspective on women’s sexual rights in Africa

  • Sylvia TamaleEmail author


The opposition of ‘culture’ and ‘rights’ is not uncommon in feminist legal discourse. This article argues that such an approach is fraught with danger as it creates an extremely restrictive framework within which African women can challenge domination; it limits our strategic interventions for transforming society and essentially plays into the hands of those seeking to perpetuate and solidify the existing structures of patriarchy. Drawing examples from a parallel research on Gender, Law and Sexuality, I propose that a more critical and interpretative approach to these two concepts may present a different perspective to portrayals of ‘tradition’ as constraining and/or fixed often displayed in mainstream feminist legal thinking.


African women African feminism Banjul Charter culture relativism rights sexuality universalism 



This article is a modified version of a paper presented at a conference on the theme, “Up Against the Nation-States of Feminist Legal Theory”, 30 June–1 July 2006, A.H.R.C. Research Centre for Law, Gender and Sexuality, University of Kent, U.K. I am grateful to J. Oloka-Onyango for his critical commentary and to the anonymous Feminist Legal Studies reviewers for their in-depth comments and questions of clarification.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of LawMakerere UniversityKampalaUganda

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