LawTransform, together with our collaborators, host a number of ongoing seminar series on a wide variety of topics:
Transitional Justice in Norway and Beyond This seminar series will address some of the key questions within transitional justice in a local and global perspective. Transitional justice is an important part of rehabilitation, state- and peace-building after conflict. However, it can also be part of a society that is recovering from a repressive regime or going through regime change. This is a collaboration between LawTransform, CMI, the University of Bergen and Bergen Global.
If you are interested in volunteering, click here.
More information to follow.
The Bergen Exchanges is a meeting place for scholars and practitioners from across the globe who seek to understand how law serves as an instrument of change – and how it shapes and is shaped by power relations. During a week of public discussions, we examine strategic uses of rights and law and how legal institutions function as arenas for political contestation (lawfare). Read more about the history and motivation behind the Bergen Exchanges here.
The Bergen Exchanges will take place in Bergen, Norway from 17-21 August 2020. The main events venue is at Bergen Global, Jekteviksbakken 31, but some events will be in different venues. For more information about travel and the city of Bergen, see here.
Alongside the Bergen Exchanges, we run a PhD course on the Effects of Lawfare. The course will run from 12-21 August. For more information, see here. To learn more about the PhD course, here is what happened in 2019.
Alongside the events of the Bergen Exchanges, there are also project
workshops for our active and developing projects (see here for
information). The workshops bring together researchers working on the projects
for two days of discussions and presentations. The projects will host public
sessions to present the ongoing project findings during the Bergen Exchanges.
Initial findings from the project “Political Determinants of Sexual and Reproductive Health: Criminalisation, health impacts and game changers”
The project investigates health effects of criminalizing sexual and reproductive behaviour and health services, and analyses the political dynamics that drive, hamper and shape the uses of such criminal law in nine African countries, including both predominantly Christian Sub Saharan countries (Uganda, Malawi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, South Africa) and North African Muslim countries (Sudan and Tunisia). Within each group there are countries with a long tradition of abortion on demand as well as countries where it is strictly criminalized – and on homosexuality the cases range from Mozambique, where same-sex relations were legalized in 2007 to legal provisions for the death penalty in Sudan.
The project aims to develop insights into political game changers that can improve conditions for sexual and reproductive health. Global health actors have sought to push for de-criminalisation of abortion and same sex relations but external pressure seems to trigger local resistance and backlash, and once abortion and homosexuality become politicized, public health evidence seems to have little traction among legislators and policy makers. And even when laws change, health policies, services and outcomes often do not. An effective de-criminalisation agenda requires better insights into the political and social dynamics – inside the health system as well as outside – and the proposed project aims to contribute to filling this gap.
Study investigating attitudes to homosexuality
A study investigating attitudes to homosexuality between and within African countries based on available survey data found that 8 in 10 Africans express anti-gay attitudes, but that: – law matters. People are less anti-gay in counties where same-sex relations are decriminalized and longitudinal data show that decriminalization is followed by decline in homophobia – religion matters. Anti-gay sentiments increase with religiosity. At individual level, there are small differences between denominations, but where overtly homophobic religions are strong (Evangelicals, Conservative Islam) more people of all beliefs are anti-gay. – poverty matters. Populations of poor countries are more anti-gay, as are the poorest segments within each country. At individual level, education is strongly associated more liberal attitudes.
Different attitudes across our ten case countries
Donor-supported LGBT rights activisms, triggered backlash in Zambia in 1998 (with claims that homosexuality is a Norwegian conspiracy). Activists switched to a health strategy, piggy-backing on HIV/AIDS programs. But our survey of 600 Zambian policymakers (parliament and local council candidates) cast doubt on the effectiveness of health framings. The vast majority opposes programs for LGBT even when presented with data on the high HIV rates.
Senegal was traditionally tolerant of goor-jiggens (men-women), but when the LGBT movement developed as part of HIV/AIDS programs for men who have sex with men (MSM) sexuality came center stage, triggering homophobia.
‘Closet activism’ (movement building, sensitization) is common in harsh conditions, such as in Sudan, where activists fear backlash from a homophobic society and a regime that codifies sodomy as a crime against God.
Kenya’s constitutional drafters included sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds of discrimination, and triggered mobilization by conservatives who brought in a clause defining marriage as a union between adults of the opposite sex. Judges attitudes to homosexuality has become a focus in appointments. But legal strategies remain central and have brought advances.
Criminalization and politicization may have severe effects on mental and physical health. A survey of 1000 LGBT in Ethiopia found that sexual- and mental health problems were their main concerns, yet mental health is rarely a focus of MSM programs.
Findings from Kenya echo this: Criminalization and politicization creates fears that affect health seeking behavior. Non-use of services, non-disclosure, misdiagnosis; and poor data for needs assessment in turn impact design and implementation of health programming and the availability of acceptable, efficient services.
Liberalization of abortion
Abortion liberalization does not automatically bring health benefits. In Tunisia abortion laws have been liberal since the 1970s, but resource constraints have reduced access.
Ethiopia made abortion more accessible in 2005. Substantial gains are made, but barriers remain due to restrictive social norms and low awareness.
Political leadership was key when South Africa (1995) and Mozambique (2014) decriminalized abortion, despite resistance to universalization of access, providing autonomy to women’s choice. How conscious objection is understood by health care workers, is a focus of ongoing work.
Siri Gloppenis Director at the Centre of Law and Social Transformation. Political scientist with a research focus in the intersection between law and politics. Siri Gloppen is Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen. With a research focus in the intersection between law and politics her work spans legal mobilization and the role of courts in social transformation, democratization and institutionalization of accountability structures, constitution-making, election processes, human rights, transitional justice and reconciliation. Her main empirical focus is southern and eastern Africa.
Camila Gianella (MSc, PhD) is a researcher at CMI and a post doctoral fellow at the department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen in the project Sexual and Reproductive Rights (SRR) Lawfare: Global battles over sexual and reproductive rights, driving forces and impacts, Dr. Gianella is also part of the team of two related project: Abortion Rights lawfare in Latin America and International Sexual and Reproductive Rights Lawfare. Gianella has a PhD from the University of Bergen. In her dissertation she analyzed the process of implementation of a structural court decision from the Colombian Constitutional Court which asked for major reforms within the health system. Prior to her PhD from the University of Bergen, Camila worked as researcher and consultant for projects on maternal health, the right to health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, mental health and transitional justice.
Lara Côrtes is a Brazilian lawyer currently working as a post-doctoral researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institutt (CMI) for the project Elevating Water Rights to Human Rights: Has it strengthened marginalized peoples’ claim for water? Based in Bergen since 2012, her previous experience at CMI has involved participation in several projects within the institute’s Angola Programme, with a particular focus on Angolan media. Côrtes has also been attached to the University of Bergen (UiB), first with a temporary position as associate professor for the course Brazilian studies and Portuguese language, and later as a researcher for the project POLAME: Poverty, Language and Media: the cases of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico.
Ingvild Aagedal Skage holds a PhD and MA from Department of Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen. Her research interests include democratization, political parties, clientelism, social movements, urban poverty, and human rights (with an emphasis on LGBT-rights). Her empirical focus is on sub-Saharan Africa. Ingvild was also a visiting Fulbright Scholar at the New School for Social Research, New York, in Spring 2013.
Bergen Exchanges Volunteer Coordinator:
Oda Karoline Ringstad is a fifth-year law-student at the University of Bergen, and she is currently writing her Masters Thesis on cyber operations as “use of force” and “armed attack” under the UN Charter. As an intern, she is a pilot for the unit “Corruption & Law” and one of three editors of LawTransform’s monthly newsletter. Besides studies, Oda works as a research assistant at Chr. Michelsen Institute for prof. Siri Gloppen and as an assistant at Bergen Global.
Anna Gopsill is currently working as a Communications Assistant with Chr Michelsen Institute and PR Coordinator at the Centre on Law and Social Transformation. Additionally, Anna is a PhD candidate at the University of London School of Advanced Studies. Her topic is wartime sexual violence against men in Bosnia (1992-1995) and Rwanda (1994). She is examining forms of sexual violence perpetrated against men and will also look at the legacy of the Bosnian and Rwandan criminal tribunals and how they addressed sexual violence against men in their work.
The Bergen Exchanges is a meeting place for scholars and practitioners from across the globe who seek to understand how law serves as an instrument of change – and how it shapes and is shaped by power relations. During a week of public discussions, we examine strategic uses of rights and law and how legal institutions function as arenas for political contestation (lawfare).
The multi-disciplinary and international nature of the Bergen Exchanges makes it a unique space for improving research strategies and methods to grasp the effects of law and lawfare. This includes the use of legal instruments by governments to shape societies – whether through constitutional change, international treaties, statutes or regulations – as well as by social actors who go to court or otherwise engage rights and law to advance their goals. Effects take different forms. How legal strategies alter political dynamics, ideas and discourses can be as important for long term transformation as more immediate changes in laws, policies, or the distribution of resources. We also seek to better understand the functioning of legal and administrative institutions as they adjudicate, interpret and implement legal norms.
In connection with the Bergen Exchanges, we have an annual, interdisciplinary PhD course on Effects of Lawfare. The PhD course is free of charge and open to applicants from Norwegian and international institutions on a first-come first serve basis (but out-of-town applicants have to cover their own travel and accommodation costs, as there are no scholarships available). Full programme and dates to be confirmed.