Roundtable: Criminalizing immorality – how to study political drivers and backlash effects?

In the past decade we have seen an increase in politicization and the use – and threat of using – the criminal law to combat what is construed as “immoral behavior”. In much of Africa this has in particular been related to homosexuality and, to a lesser extent abortion.  Attempts by domestic and international actors to push for more liberal laws seem to have trigged a backlash. How can we, as researchers, best capture and understand the driving forces and dynamics of these social and political processes?  Which approaches and research methods are best suited?

This roundtable is hosted by the new LawTransform/CMI project on “Political determinants of sexual and reproductive health”.

  • Introduction by Adrian Jjuuko (*tbc) on the use of criminal law by state and civil society actors in Uganda
  • Thomas M Keck and Elisabeth Ivarsflaten discusses how to study political drivers and backlash effects.

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Adrian Jjuuko is a Ugandan human rights lawyer and advocate. He is the Executive Director of Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF). He is the current Chair of the Legal Committee and former coordinator of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which coordinated civil society efforts to nullify Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act and which won the US State Department’s Human Rights Defenders Award 2011. Adrian coordinated the successful legal efforts to challenge the Anti Homosexuality Act, 2014 in Uganda’s Constitutional Court and is leading the process to challenge the Act at the East African Court of Justice. He holds an LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa from the University of Pretoria, an LLB degree from Makerere University Kampala, Uganda, and a postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Centre, Kampala. His research interests are in the areas of: LGBTI rights, the right to health, and children’s rights.

Thomas M. Keck is the Michael O. Sawyer Chair of Constitutional Law & Politics at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs. He received a B.A. in Politics from Oberlin College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University. His research focuses on constitutional courts and the use of legal strategies by political movements on the left and the right. He is the author of The Most Activist Supreme Court in History and Judicial Politics in Polarized Times, along with articles in the American Political Science Review, Constitutional Studies, Law & Society Review, and Law & Social Inquiry. He is currently leading an NSF-funded, cross-national, comparative study of constitutional free expression jurisprudence.