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Evans-Pritchard Lectures - The plight of women and girls, 1990-2015

Dr Benedetta Rossi


Thursday, 12 May - 5:00pm



The history of emancipation has been influenced by gender ideologies at the international, national, and local level. Under legal slavery, gender affected the slaves’ functions, treatment, and emancipation options. Male and female slaves were aware of their unequal opportunities and consequently developed distinct aspirations and strategies. Most abolitionist movements, be they Christian or Muslim, colonial or contemporary, held normative views about the ‘proper’ management of women’s bodies and persons. These views were reflected in action and policy, and influenced women’s attitudes toward (and tolerance of) social dependence. Furthermore, after legal abolition free women and girls have continued to be more vulnerable to illegal enslavement than men. This last lecture examines the  ain contemporary forms of women’s enslavement in Africa. It starts by reviewing known histories of resistance and agency. But individual cases of female resistance possibly obfuscate the extent of women’s continuing exposure to enslavement through trafficking and the massive phenomenon of sexual enslavement in African wars. It has been a leitmotif of African history that wars and jihads led to the seizure of slaves, especially amongst non-fighting women and children, and this has not ended. Since the mid-1980s, conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, the DRC, South Sudan, Mali, and Northern Nigeria witnessed the abduction and enslavement of women and girls, often accompanied by legitimizing ideologies developed by rebel armies and perpetrators. This lecture sets out to show that slavery is not dead and that wartime enslavement continues to happen on a large scale and preponderantly affects women.