Women on Africa's constitutional and supreme courts: When, where, and why?

Colloquium | January 23 | 12:30-2 p.m. | 223 Moses Hall

 Alice Kang, Associate Professor, Political Science and Ethnic Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

 Center for African Studies

Women across the African continent have gained positions of political power to an unprecedented degree in recent decades. In countries such as Rwanda and Senegal, women hold more than 40 percent of seats in the national legislature. Yet much less is known about the rise and presence of women in African judiciaries. Feminist scholars of law and politics argue that the inclusion of women on the bench is important for enhancing the legitimacy of the courts, improving the quality of decisions, and inspiring girls and young women to pursue a career in the legal profession. Since when have women been appointed to national courts in Africa? Are there differences across the continent and over time, and if so, why? With funding from the National Science Foundation, my colleagues and I spent four years compiling the world's first historical data set on the gender composition of constitutional courts and supreme courts. Our analyses suggests that the global and regional diffusion of norms of gender balance on decision making bodies influences who holds power in the judicial branch. We also consider the influence of court size, regime type, selection mechanisms, and women's tertiary education.

Alice J. Kang is Associate Professor of Political Science and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research investigates women's movements, gender quotas, and policymaking in Africa. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Africa Today, Comparative Political Studies, Politics & Gender, and Perspectives on Politics. She is the author of Bargaining for Women's Rights: Activism in an Aspiring Muslim Democracy (University of Minnesota Press 2015), which focuses on the Republic of Niger.