Women and the Human Rights Paradigm in the African Context

Living reference work entry
Part of the International Human Rights book series (IHR)


Women’s individual rights claims in many African countries are contentious in large part because they are considered to be a threat to societal and national cultural harmony. This is even more so when women’s sexual rights come into question. Conservative groups argue that these rights claims are Western-oriented and threaten the moral fiber of their societies. To counter these arguments, women’s rights activists not only have to historicize the colonial foundations of women’s oppression but also strategically dialogue between universalist and essentialist cultural norms. This chapter analyzes the contexts, debates, and discourses of women’s rights in African sociopolitical and cultural systems. The chapter emphasizes the need for women’s rights to be situated within global economic inequities in order to highlight intricate interconnections between global neoliberalism and women’s rights at the local levels. The chapter raises an argument that in the changing sociocultural landscape in Africa, African exceptionalism in women’s rights discourses hinders progressive dialogue on women and minority rights. The chapter also discusses intersectionality and generational differences in rights activism.


Women Africa Human rights Culture Neoliberalism Intersectionality 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional StudiesYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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