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Fighting gender-based violence: The women’s movement and the enforcement of rape law in Liberia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-397
Number of pages21
JournalAfrican affairs
Volume377
Issue number397
Early online date1 Jul 2013
DOIs
DateAccepted/In press - 1 Jul 2013
DateE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jul 2013
DatePublished (current) - Jul 2013

Abstract

Many African states have adopted laws that criminalize rape and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV), but the enforcement of such laws is often weak. Many rape cases are never brought to court and victims are frequently encouraged to accept reconciliation instead of prosecution of offenders. Drawing on research from post-conflict Liberia, this article investigates the ability of women's movements to influence the state's implementation of rape law, and seeks to theorize the relationship between women's activism and the enforcement of rape law. It documents the range of strategies adopted by the Liberian women's movement, and argues that these tactics have contributed to an increased referral of rape cases to court. This was made possible by two conditions: a relatively open political environment and political and material support from international organizations, which in turn enabled women's NGOs to gain access to and make an impression on the implementation process. This demonstrates the capacity of civil society organizations in Africa's more open and internationally connected states to influence policy at the implementation stage–even in particularly challenging areas such as women's rights.

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