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Why Do Authoritarian Regimes in Africa Adopt Women’s Rights Reforms?

The recent authoritarian turn globally raises questions about what happens to women’s rights in such contexts. Surprisingly, some authoritarian regimes in Africa have proven rather adept at adopting women’s rights provisions, making extensive constitutional and legislative reforms and promoting women as leaders. Women’s rights in some authoritarian states may even be a way of seeking internal and external legitimacy against an overall dismal human rights record. This project, which will result in a monograph and an article, looks at why many, if not most, authoritarian regimes in Africa adopt more women’s rights reforms and often earlier than democratic regimes. It looks at the paradox that many women’s rights reforms are seemingly easier to implement than other reforms in human rights, civil liberties and political rights that might challenge the status quo more directly. The project evaluates not only policy adoption, but also the outcomes for women’s status and welfare.
The study looks at fourteen countries where the author has conducted extensive fieldwork on women’s rights in the past. Of these, three involve fresh fieldwork for this project. These countries are selected because they represent different regime types and levels of adoption of women’s rights policies.


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Is any information on this page incorrect or outdated? Please notify Ms. Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected].