Problematising the diffusion of LGBTI rights in Africa : the case of Malawi.

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

African countries have increasingly come under fire for the maltreatment of homosexuals by those within the state and society. The region is rife with instances of homophobia manifesting themselves in acts of discrimination or even violence. In response to this international actors have sought to urge African countries to protect the rights of sexual minorities. However, the endeavour has proved somewhat unsuccessful as African nation states continue to resist the diffusion of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Intersex (LGBTI) norm. This study seeks to highlight the gaps within the Norm Life Cycle model as developed by Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink by exploring the difficulties faced in diffusing the LGBTI norm into Malawi. The rejection of the LGBTI norm by Malawians at societal level shows an impediment to norm diffusion that is not considered by the Norm Cycle model. The case of Malawi illustrates the limitations of the model and, in turn, the need for a lens that takes into consideration the specificities at the local level. This dissertation shows that there is a need to analyse the ‘norm takers’ – one must take into account the variances between nation states in terms of such facets as culture, tradition and identity. It will utilise the rejection of the norm by Malawian society to argue for a more localised understanding of norm diffusion.

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