Category Archives: Thesis


Masters in Women’s Law Programme, Southern and Eastern Africa Regional Women’s Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Zimbabwe. (2008)LMEFREE

“A case of culture gone awry”: An investigation of female initiation ceremonies and Nyau dance vigils on the rights of teenage girls to education and sexual reproductive health amongst migrant communities in Norton, Zimbabwe

Thabethe SN


This dissertation focuses on the harm suffered by teenage girls who, often forced into early marriages by poverty, must first engage in the customary practices of initiation ceremonies followed by participation in highly ritualized dance vigils. Evidence from a wide range of sources analysed in the context of various methodologies, in particular the Women’s Law Approach, testifies loudly to the serious harm caused, primarily, to their health and education as a result of the growing abuses of these practices. In order to protect and realize the human rights of these vulnerable young women in terms of local and international HR instruments which bind Zimbabwe, the writer does not suggest abolishing the practices, but rather reforming them internally by educating their adult overseers.

This Master Thesis Dissertation can be accessed in this LINK

Women’s rights are human rights : The practice of the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Women’s rights are human rights : The practice of the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Leeuwen, F.C. van (contr. Boerefijn, C.; Flinterman, C.; Loenen, M.L.P.; University Utrecht)

2009. Disertasion. School of Human Rights Research Series, Volume: 36. Univ. Utrecht.

Women’s rights are human rights!’ This notion may seem self evident, as the international system for the promotion and the protection of human rights that was installed under the auspice of the United Nations (UN) builds on the idea of equality in dignity and rights of men and women. Yet, as was convincingly showed by critics of this system, it is not. In 1993 a lobby of women’s rights activists and organisations from all over the world gathered in Vienna at the World Conference on Human Rights to make clear to the 171 states represented there that the international human rights system ignored blatant human rights violations that occur on a daily basis in the lives of women from all over the world. The states represented at the World Conference recognised this deficiency of the international human rights system and called upon the monitoring bodies of the mainstream international human rights treaties to include the status and human rights of women in their deliberations and findings. This study examines whether two of these monitoring bodies: the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) have taken up this call. It thereby focused specifically on matters that affect women’s physical integrity. The study shows that the HRC and the CESCR make good use of the possibilities within their mandates to address issues that affect women’s physical integrity: they address not only issues like rape and domestic violence, but also for example female genital mutilation, unsafe abortions, and lack of access to contraceptives. It is in this respect interesting to note that the monitoring bodies do not consider abortion to be a violation of any human right, but, on the contrary, recommend states that have general prohibitions on abortion to amend their laws and allow for abortion under certain circumstances. Moreover, the HRC and the CESCR generally formulate obligations for states parties that take into account the gender-specific form, circumstances and consequences of these human rights abuses. But the HRC and the CESCR could and should do more. Only in a few instances do the bodies expressly link issues like rape, female genital mutilation, and trafficking of women to discrimination of women in societies. Hence, the recommendations of the HRC and the CESCR generally do not request the states parties to tackle the root cause of human rights abuses and constraints: the subordinate position of women in society. Further action is required to overcome this deficit. In this, NGOs and academics also have an important role to play, as they should make the bodies aware of the discriminatory background and nature of specific situations and issues and could present them with ideas on how best to tackle these underlying causes. What is clear is that the request of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights is not a short-term assignment for the monitoring bodies, but rather is a process that will be ongoing for as long as gender inequality exists. The commitment of not only UN agencies, but also academics, and NGOs is required to transform the international system so as to ensure that it fully accommodates and responds to human rights abuses and constraints that are typical of women’s lives, now and in the future.

PhD Thesis available in this LINK

Perinatal mortality among immigrants from Africa´s Horn: The importance of experience, rationality, and tradition for risk assessment in pregnancy and childbirth

Perinatal mortality among immigrants from Africa´s Horn: The importance of experience, rationality, and tradition for risk assessment in pregnancy and childbirth

Essén, Birgitta

2001. Doctoral dissertation. Department of Obstetric and Gynaecology, University Hospital, MAS, Lund University, 205 02 Malmö

This thesis is an exploration of the possible effects of maternal country of origin on the risk of perinatal mortality (PNM). Increased risk of PNM was found among infants of foreign-born women delivering in a Swedish hospital between 1990-1995. After adjustment for risk factors, however, the finding only held true for a subgroup of women from Ethiopia and Somalia (ES). In searching for the mechanism behind this observation, an anthropological study of Somali women was undertaken, yielding the hypothesis that experiences and notions of childbirth brought from their country of origin resulted in certain beliefs and pregnancy strategies of which Swedish caregivers were unaware. These factors, combined with miscommunication, may have occasioned sub-optimal care and heightened the risk of PNM. In order to test this hypothesis, an audit of all perinatal deaths to ES mothers in Sweden was compared to a matched cohort of Swedish women. Sub-optimal factors associated with PNM were noted with significantly greater frequency among the ES mothers. The audit showed that potentially avoidable deaths (e.g., intrapartal and neonatal deaths, as well as SGA stillbirths) could be related to maternal pregnancy strategies (such as avoiding C/S or not seeking perinatal care when needed), deficiencies in medical care (inadequate surveillance of IUGR or intrapartal CTG), and verbal miscommunication. However, no association was found between female circumcision and PNM. Circumcised women had in fact a lower risk of prolonged labour, and had a significantly shorter second stage of labour, as compared to non-circumcised women. It was concluded that the higher incidence of PNM appears partly to be due to an unfortunate interaction between certain pregnancy strategies practices by ES women and the performance of Swedish perinatal care services. The pregnancy strategies in question were related to poor health care experience, rationality, and tradition regarding childbirth in their countries of origin. Lack of awareness of these circumstances could be linked to sub-optimal perinatal care in the many of the instances studied. A greater familiarity among clinicians in the Swedish perinatal health care services with this background may decrease the risk of PNM in ES women by focusing on patient education, interpersonal communication, and improved foetal surveillance. The assertion made in the past linking PNM to prolonged labour due to circumcision in a high resource country like Sweden, found little support in this study.

PhD Thesis available in this LINK

Created by God: How Somalis in Swedish Exile Reassess the Practice of Female Circumcision

Created by God: How Somalis in Swedish Exile Reassess the Practice of Female Circumcision

Johnsdotter, Sara

2002, Doctoral dissertation, Department of Social Anthropology, Lund University, Sweden

‘Created by God’ presents the views of Swedish Somalis on female circumcision and contrasts it to the Swedish public discourse on the issue. Despite the lack of documented illegal cases of female circumcision in Sweden, it is constantly claimed in the public discourse that female circumcision (female genital mutilation) is a practice upheld by the Somali exile group in Sweden. Based on an analysis of the internal debate on female circumcision among Swedish Somalis, it is argued that this is a practice negotiated and reassessed by Somalis in Sweden. While some traditional values are maintained, even when in conflict with mainstream mentality of the Swedish society, other values and attitudes are debated and abandoned. Among the Somalis in this study, reassessment of the religious imperative in relation to female circumcision has played a crucial role. The study highlights the importance of a processual theory of cultural practices, in contrast to the prevalent essentialist perspective. It is further argued that the prevalent discrepancy between the discourses – the discussion among Swedish Somalis and the public discussion in Sweden – is an obstacle in the process toward a complete abandonment of the practice of female circumcision in the Somali community in Sweden.

Available in this LINK