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Catalog Archive / Spring 2020

Legislating Gender and Sexuality in Africa
Human Rights, Society, and the State
Edited by Lydia Boyd and Emily Burrill

Critical Human Rights
Series Editors: Scott Straus and Tyrell Haberkorn; Editor Emeritus: Steve J. Stern

“The excellent studies assembled here show that gender relations and sexuality pose unforeseen challenges to both the theory and the practice of human rights. The range of answers given in this volume will help students, scholars, and activists find their way through a morass of contemporary debates.”
—Harri Englund, University of Cambridge

In recent decades, a more formalized and forceful shift has emerged in the legislative realm when it comes to gender and sexual justice in Africa. This rigorous, timely volume brings together leading and rising scholars across disciplines to evaluate these ideological struggles and reconsider the modern history of human rights on the continent. Broad in geographic coverage and topical in scope, chapters investigate such subjects as marriage legislation in Mali, family violence experienced by West African refugees, sex education in Uganda, and statutes criminalizing homosexuality in Senegal. These case studies highlight the nuances and contradictions in the varied ways key actors make arguments for or against rights. They also explore how individual countries draft and implement laws that attempt to address the underlying problems.

Legislating Gender and Sexuality in Africa details how legal efforts in the continent can often be moralizing enterprises, illuminating how these processes are closely tied to notions of ethics, personhood, and citizenship. The contributors provide new appraisals of recent events, with fresh arguments about the relationships between local and global fights for rights. This interdisciplinary approach will appeal to scholars in African studies, anthropology, history, and gender studies.


Lydia Boyd is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of Preaching Prevention: Born-Again Christianity and the Moral Politics of AIDS in Uganda. Emily Burrill is an associate professor and the director of the African Studies Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of States of Marriage: Gender, Justice, and Rights in Colonial Mali.




“Grounded in the finest of anthropological traditions and enhanced by an exceptionally insightful introduction and epilogue, these essays both challenge and enrich existing theory. They powerfully demonstrate how international legal codes shape—and are reshaped by—the most intimate of human affairs.”
—Caroline Bledsoe, Northwestern University

“An important and original work. As a platform, human rights operates as both practice and discourse to shape subjectivity and conduct. This compelling collection demonstrates how this formula unleashes possibilities for political agency while at the same time foreclosing others.”
—Benjamin N. Lawrance, University of Arizona

“As a collection, Legislating Gender and Sexuality in Africa shows that arguments over human rights are ultimately debates about who can be visible and who is worthy of the state’s protection.”
—Alice J. Kang, University of Nebraska–Lincoln



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Legislating Gender and Sexuality in Africa: A group of people at a pro-LGBT protest in Uganda hold up signs. Two women are in the foreground, speaking into a microphone.

Larger images

June 2020
LC: 2019039028 JC
216 pp. 6 x 9
5 b/w illus.

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Cloth $79.95 S
ISBN 9780299327408
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