Title: “There is Still No Justice Here!”: Theorizing Women’s Movements’ Influence on Postwar African States Enforcement of Gender-Based Violence Laws
Name: Peace Medie
Research Fellow
Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy
University of Ghana
Year: 2014
Type: Research Grant

African countries have begun to create specialized criminal justice sector mechanisms such as specialized courts and specialized police units to address violence against women. Proponents of this international norm, including women’s nongovernmental organizations, argue that these specialized mechanisms will improve how victims of gendered violence are treated by the criminal justice system and will ensure that perpetrators are held accountable by the law. My book project is a comparative study of the implementation of this international norm in post-war states in Africa. I draw on over 300 interviews conducted in Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire to study variation in the establishment of specialized units in the police force and gendarmerie. While both countries have created specialized units, Liberia has made more progress in institutionalizing its unit. I also study how the establishment of these specialized units have affected the performance of street-level officers in cases of intimate partner violence and non-partner perpetrated rape.

I argue that while pressure from the United Nations, including the peacekeeping mission in both countries, was sufficient for the creation of the specialized units, it was not sufficient for their institutionalization. Instead strong pressure from domestic actors, particularly women’s organizations, and favorable political and institutional conditions, were needed for rapid institutionalization. Furthermore, in both countries, officers in specialized units were less likely to adopt practices that re-victimized girls and women and were more likely to refer rape cases for prosecution. However, street-level performance was hampered by infrastructural and logistical constraints. These findings provide insight into the domestic implementation of international norms and demonstrate the roles of international and domestic actors in addressing violence against women and in building institutions in war-affected states. These findings are also relevant for policymakers as they identify the conditions under which specialized units are more likely to be institutionalized and to improve law enforcement and advance women’s rights.


Medie, Peace. “Rape Reporting in Post-conflict Cote D’Ivoire: Accessing Justice and Ending Impunity”. African Affairs, 116/464, 414-434