Substantive Representation: From Timing to Framing of Family Law Reform in Morocco, South Africa and Uganda

  • Ragnhild L. Muriaas
  • Liv Tønnessen
  • Vibeke Wang
Part of the Citizenship, Gender and Diversity book series (FEMCIT)


This chapter argues that an essential factor affecting the prospects of successful substantive representation of women is whether or not the protagonists of family law reform are able to frame their claims in a manner that is acceptable to both the public and the ruling elite. It adopts a “thick” conception of substantive representation which takes into account how representation occurs as well as its outcome. Through a “most different” comparative strategy, the authors study how and through what mechanisms family law reforms in Morocco, South Africa and Uganda occurred. In Morocco, the 2004 family law reform was more comprehensive and closer to the original feminist demands because the process received the blessing of the Moroccan king and was pushed through in a top-down manner. In the case of South Africa and Uganda, however, the initial law reform proposal had to undergo more substantial changes in scope and content, as more veto players needed to be on board for the proposal to be successfully enacted. The analysis finds that women’s feminist claims for equality have been negotiated to gain cultural resonance through processes of framing and reframing the claims to appeal to critical audiences. Pro-women actors, such as women activists inside and outside government, took center stage in this process. Additionally, male actors—who acted as intermediaries or leveraged the key government positions they held—also played vital roles in ensuring that legislation was enacted. This indicates that while the timing of a legal reform proposal is important, the framing of the reform campaign is also critical.


Domestic Violence Child Marriage Substantive Representation Marital Rape Domestic Relation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ragnhild L. Muriaas
    • 1
  • Liv Tønnessen
    • 2
  • Vibeke Wang
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Comparative PoliticsUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  2. 2.Chr. Michelsen InstituteBergenNorway

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