Launch of new unit on Gender, Sexuality & the Law

The new unit on Gender, Sexuality & the Law at the Centre on Law and Social Transformation was launched on Monday 21 November in Bergen, with an event on International diplomacy and African LGBTI Rights.

Why has Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, and Intersex (LGBTI) rights become central to the West’s human rights agenda in Africa? Does international diplomacy help Africa’s LGBTI struggles? How do the experiences vary between the different African states? 


These and several other questions were adressed by Assistant Professor Michael Wahman (University of Missouri) who gave a presentation of his recent research on LGBTI rights and international diplomacy in Africa, comparing Malawin and Zambia.

In aid-dependent Malawi donors have been remarkably successful in pushing for LGBTI rights liberalization. In Zambia, government repression has been higher, but Western pressure low. Wahman’s research explores the tools used for the promotion of LGBTI rights in Africa and theorizes about the costs involved in promoting such rights in a highly resistant environment. It looks particularly at four potential diplomatic tools: sanctions, public engagement, silent diplomacy, and local NGO support.


After Wahman’s introduction, Frank Mugisha, LGBT activist from Uganda shared his experence. As the leader of SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda), he is one of the most central activist in the region, and he is the 2011 Rafto Price laureate.

The two presentations were followed by a discussion with Vegard Vibe (PhD candidate, Department of Comparative Politics), Lise Rakner (Professor, Department of Comparative Politics), and Siri Gloppen (Director, Centre on Law & Social Transformation).