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Author:Karmen Tornius (Danish Institute for International Studies Roskilde University)
Paper short abstract:
Through a decolonial reading of the current pan-African gender agenda, this article probes the discourse around local norms and GBV, and interrogates the emancipatory potential of the histories of negotiated ‘gender’, ‘womanhood’ and empowerment across Africa.
Paper long abstract:
The Africa Union policies frame gender-based violence as enabled by inadequate local socio-cultural norms, or in other instances, by cultural, traditional or religious practices. In doing so, the institution is reproducing the discourse on culture vs rights, whereby knowledge-based transformation is seen as the key for changing harmful local norms. In 2021, the African Union and its gender institutions work under the theme of Arts, Culture and Heritage. The theme presents a nod to the continents vibrant cultural resources and the AU civil society platform on gender equality, GIMAC, particularly highlighted the opportunity to acknowledge the historic role of women in anti-imperial struggle and post-colonial Africa, while pointing out that culture is misinterpreted as a license to harm women. In the article at hand I propose that deploying a decolonial lens can reveals the shortcomings of culture vs rights discourse which downplays structural causes for gender-based violence on the continent and over-estimates the power of legal rights. Extreme poverty, the position of African countries in global economic system, lack of women in power, ethnic and other systemic marginalisations are just few structural issues to be named. Secondly, I suggest that decolonial reading of pan-African gender agenda point to the need to interrogate colonial gender regimes, and revitalise research into the pre-colonial histories of African peoples, as they reveal a wide variety of interpretations of ‘gender’, ‘womanhood’ and empowerment. Local histories might prove powerful resources for addressing gendered violence.
Unsettling 'gender' within research, policy and practice II