Liv Tønnesen

Liv Tønnessen

Director of Center on Law and Social Transformation and Senior Researcher

The project is based at the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) in cooperation with the Regional Institute of Gender, Diversity,Peace and Rights (RIG/DPR) at Ahfad University for Women. (AUW), Sudan. In this multidisciplinary project we aim to go beyond victimization of women and engage more widely with their agency. In much of the understanding, writing and coverage of women and gender based violence, particularly in periods of war and conflict, women are portrayed as passive victims in need of protection. But if women are heard and treated predominantly as victims, and if their experiences with violence are reduced to suffering and helplessness, there is a risk that their agency, activism and strategies to better their situation will be overlooked.

Theoretically, the project draws on the emerging literature on Islamic law reform andgender as well as the rich body of literature on legal pluralism. The project seeks to address two overaching questions: 1. How and why do changes in the operation of the formal legal system reflect shifting gender relations of power and the interpretation of Islamic law in an emergent post-conflict society? The aim is to investigate both Islamic law as it is codified by the state and practiced by the courts over time, but also explore potential for Islamic law reform and women’s activism for change. The project is particularly concerned with Criminal law and the confusion of adultery and rape and also the family law which allows for early marriages. 2. And how do informal and local mechanisms of justice reflect, inform, accommodate, resist, and reject shifting gender relations of power and the interpretations of Islamic law in northern Sudan? The aim is to investigate customary law and women’s access to justice outside the formal legal system. Issues related to violence against women often do not reach the formal legal system. The project thus explores women strategies to bargain for their rights within their families and local communities.