The right to culture and the culture of rights: a critical perspective on women’s sexual rights in Africa

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Sylvia Tamale


Feminist Legal Studies, Volume 16, Issue 1 (2008)



African feminism, African women, Banjul Charter, culture, relativism, rights, sexuality, universalism


The opposition of ‘culture’ and ‘rights’ is not uncommon in feminist legal discourse. This article argues that such an approach is fraught with danger as it creates an extremely restrictive framework within which African women can challenge domination; it limits our strategic interventions for transforming society and essentially plays into the hands of those seeking to perpetuate and solidify the existing structures of patriarchy. Drawing examples from a parallel research on Gender, Law and Sexuality, I propose that a more critical and interpretative approach to these two concepts may present a different perspective to portrayals of ‘tradition’ as constraining and/or fixed often displayed in mainstream feminist legal thinking