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The 1990s marked the beginning of a constitutional proliferation throughout sub-Saharan Africa in a process that continues today. These newer constitutions were written in an attempt to usher in an era of democratization on the continent. In many of these nations, the move from authoritarianism to democracy was spurred, in part, by the discontent of a politically excluded citizenry. The new constitutions reflected this and were celebrated for their written commitment to individual rights and a democratically accountable government. More recently, however, scholars have called into question the effectiveness of these new constitutions. Some charge that they are really just "shams" or ornamental documents that serve to consolidate power among political elites, fail to create a meaningful democratic system, and persist in disempowering non-elites and commonly marginalized populations. The new governments, although democratic on paper, maintain political inequality and perpetuate the de facto disenfranchisement of non-elites and historically marginalized groups. In particular, women across the continent have long been marginalized and continue to face great barriers to meaningfully participate in their country's political and constitutional dialogue. Largely ignored by their executive and parliament and lacking the means to assert their rights themselves in court, these women are unable to exercise their constitutional rights, rendering these rights meaningless.

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