Women’s Rights in Africa: An Examination of African Human Rights Systems in the Context of CEDAW and the Universalism Versus Cultural Relativism Debate

Authors Bukola Faturoti

ISSN: 2521-2605
Affiliations: Senior lecturer, Law School, Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University
Source: Journal of Comparative Law in Africa, Volume 3 Issue 1, p. 149 – 176


Many African women suffer discrimination on the basis of their gender and other factors like religion, customs, age and marital status. They continue to be victims of harmful practices whose perpetrators are never held to account because the practices have their roots in cultural values and traditions. Any attempt to initiate a change in human rights — in particular, women’s rights — is countered with the argument of the imposition of Western culture on other regions of the world. This argument is based on the premise that human rights should be fashioned along the lines of the cultural beliefs of the people and should never be expected to be universal. By comparing certain provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women with a number of African human rights instruments, this article investigates the influence of cultural relativism — if any — on the formulation of women’s rights under African human rights regimes.