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Human Rights, Culture, and the Law: Strategies to Indigenize Responses To Gender Discrimination and Sexual Violence Against Women in Igbo Communities in Nigeria

Date

2024-01-30

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

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Type

Thesis

Degree Level

Masters

Abstract

Gender discrimination and sexual violence have long been aspects of the lived experience of women in eastern Nigeria. Over the past three decades, both the international community and the Nigerian government have taken steps to eliminate discrimination against women. Despite these efforts, Nigeria, like most countries in Africa, still struggles to recognize, let alone implement, the human rights of women to live free from gender discrimination and sexual violence. This experience raises questions about gaps in the implementation of human rights in the context of women’s lived realities in Nigeria. In this thesis, I examine the contributions legal statutes, international laws, and regional regulations have made to improving the lives of women in the Igbo communities in eastern Nigeria and find that the law falls short in addressing the practical aspects of implementation. I acknowledge that international and domestic laws constitute a potentially valuable framework for addressing violations of women’s rights but believe the application of legal approaches alone is limiting and ineffective. To this end, I argue that meeting the challenges faced in implementing human rights laws that guarantee women’s rights to equality and freedom from gender discrimination and sexual violence requires adoption of culturally grounded and contextualized approaches. Women’s human rights laws are more apt to gain meaningful acceptance at all levels, from the community to the highest courts, when they are implemented by grass roots institutions that are rooted in the culture. Accordingly, I recommend that traditional leaders, whose legitimacy as custodians of Igbo culture is unquestioned, assume a central role in interpreting and reinterpreting the meaning and significance of cultural values and norms that shape and, in turn, are affirmed by cultural practices. I further suggest that cultural reinterpretation can: (1) discern and incorporate the underlining purpose of most cultural practices; (2) promote and enrich inter-group gender dialogue; and (3) transform and enrich the cultural competency training required by legal professionals and others involved in securing the human rights of women. This multi-faceted approach will gradually transform cultural understanding at the grass-roots level and among professionals and the courts, and in due course lead to international recognition of culture as a valuable resource in the implementation of women’s human rights.

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Keywords

Women's Human Rights, Igbo, Culture, Nigeria, International Law, Nigeria.

Citation

Degree

Master of Laws (LL.M.)

Department

Law

Program

Law

Advisor

Citation

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