Political determinants of sexual and reproductive health: Criminalisation, health impacts and game changers

Timeframe: 03/01/2016 - 03/01/2020

Why is homosexuality (encompassing lesbian, gay, bi, trans*/LGBT) more politicized and
criminalized in Africa than elsewhere? Can similar politicization of abortion be prevented? And
what are the health impacts? This project analyses LGBT and abortion politics in ten African
countries: Sudan, Tunisia, Senegal, Malawi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Zambia and
South Africa.

Development actors have increasingly recognised the importance of the political determinants of health. One way in which politics and power dynamics impact health is through the use of criminal law. The project provides insights into the causes and effects of criminalisation of abortion and same sex relations, which is widespread in low and middle income countries, and has significant detrimental effects on mental health, maternal mortality; the health of women and LGBTs, and HIV transmission.

Methodology: The project combines qualitative case studies, survey data, experiments, and machine learning. A cross-national study of LGBT discourses in African media, using unsupervised machine learning of 20 000 news articles, find contextual differences in framing and are developing a sentiment dictionary to trace how LGBT news coverage respond to political events.

For more about the project, and for our preliminary findings, see here.

Project team: Siri Gloppen, Camila Gianella, Lise Rakner, Liv Tønnessen, Malcolm Langford, Nicholas Orago, Adrian Jjuuko, Elisabeth Ivarsflaten, Alicia Ely Yamin, Getnet Tadele, Marta Rodriguez de Assis Machado, Carmeliza Soares Da Costa Rosario, Charles Ngwena, Edge Kanyongolo, Frans Viljoen, Fiona Shen-Bayh, Leo Arriola, Mindy Roseman, Samia Al Nager, Rebecca Cook, Vegard Vibe, Landilani Banda, Ingvild Aagedal Skage (Postdoctoral candidate), Satang Nabaneh (PhD candidate)

Recent Publications

Liv Tønnessen, Samia Al-Nagar (2019)                                                                                                    The Politicization of Abortion and Hippocratic Disobedience in Islamist Sudan

Camila Gianella, Marta Rodriguez de Assis Machado and Siri Gloppen (2017) Political determinants of sustainable development goals The Lancet

Ruben Berge Mathisen (2017) A Postmaterialist Explanation of Homophobia in Africa: Multilevel Analysis of Attitudes Towards Homosexuals in 33 African Countries Masters Thesis: University of Bergen 

Recent Events

Masters week – Attitudes towards homosexuals in Africa

With: Ruben Berge Mathisen, Norman Anderssen, Lise Rakner and Ingvild Aagedal Skage.
Date: 5 March 2019


Den nye abortdebatten – globale og juridiske perspektiver

With:  Hans Fredrik MarthinussenLiv Tønnessen and Heidi Frances Thornhill
Date: 13 December 2018


For more project events, see here. 

Project information

Timeframe: January 2016 – January 2020
Funder: Norwegian Research Council
Project Leader: Siri Gloppen

The project is a collaboration between the CMI/LawTransform, the universities of Bergen, Pretoria and Georgetown, UNI, COWI (Mozambique), KELIN (Kenya) and CEHURD (Uganda).