Johanna E. Bond: Gender, Discourse, and Customary Law in Africa

Professor Johanna E. Bond recently published her article, Gender, Discourse, and Customary Law in Africa, in the Southern California Law Review (83 S. Cal. L. Rev. 509). It was also featured on the AVON Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School.

The article is the first to comprehensively explore the potential of discourse ethics and deliberative democracy theory, as embodied in procedural, dialogical human rights provisions, to improve women’s rights within Africa. It provides a blueprint for resolving broader questions that arise in the context of tension between the rights of cultural minority communities and the individual members of those communities.

Professor Bond draws upon philosophical currents in discourse ethics theory to argue that inclusive deliberative processes, such as the procedural rights in select human rights treaties, allow women to systematically engage with cultural meaning and facilitate acculturation of human rights norms among traditional leaders in Africa. The article argues that discourse ethics do not adequately account for the very real power disparities that pervade localized discussions of customary law. It proposes a two-part solution. First, Professor Bond proposes limiting the scope of deliberation in the context of African customary law. She argues that dialogue should focus not on norm definition, but on localized modes of implementation. Second, Professor Bond argues that litigation is a useful backstop in Commonwealth Africa when dialogical political decision-making results in illiberal outcomes.

Congratulations to Professor Bond on the publication of this article.

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