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Dancer_2015_Journeys for justice in Tanzania.pdf (2.28 MB)

Journeys for justice in Tanzania

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posted on 2023-06-09, 22:23 authored by Helen DancerHelen Dancer
Much has been written about women’s land rights in Africa, but little research has been undertaken on how law works in practice, particularly in statutory court systems. Before I began the research for my book, Women, Land and Justice in Tanzania, I was a practising legal aid barrister in England. My ‘black-letter’ legal training had encouraged me to see law as a tool and my approach to human rights had much in common with the ‘rights-based approaches’ of many lawyers, international organisations and NGOs. In the early stages of planning my research however, I reflected on the limitations and pitfalls of pursuing a rights-based approach to research. Postcolonial and feminist legal scholars point to what Ratna Kapur has described as ‘victimisation rhetoric’ surrounding many human rights campaigns for women’s rights. Moreover, rights-based approaches take the concept of human rights and human rights law, rather than the lived experiences of people, as the analytical starting-point. The presence of human rights provisions in laws and constitutions represents a vital political and legal commitment. However, arguably, the rights-based approach is too narrow a conceptual lens through which to ground an understanding of the issues surrounding women, land and access to justice in practice. I decided to turn my research methodology on its head, making people and women’s claims to land, rather than legal and human rights principles, the starting point and touchstone, both during my fieldwork and in the writing and recommendations.


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