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Prof. Dr. Stephen Brown

Stephen_crop Prof. Dr. Stephen Brown

Short Bio

Stephen Brown is Professor of Political Science at the University of Ottawa, where he is also affiliated with the School of International Development and Global Studies. His research focuses mainly on the intersection of domestic and international politics. He has published on democratization, political violence, peacebuilding and transitional justice/rule of law in Angola, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Rwanda. In recent years, he has conducted research on foreign aid in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mongolia and Peru, focusing on aid effectiveness norms and the practices of Western donor countries as a whole and of Canada in particular. He has also written about the impact of COVID-19 on development assistance and global cooperation. He is currently carrying out research on international LGBTQI+ rights. He has been a visiting scholar at universities and research institutes in Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Pronouns: he/him.


Selected Publications

  • Brown, Stephen. “The impact of COVID-19 on development assistance”. International Journal, vol. 76, no. 1 (2021), pp. 42-54.
  • Aylward, Erin and Stephen Brown. “Sexual orientation and gender identity in Canada’s ‘feminist’ international assistance”. International Journal, vol. 75, no. 3 (2020), pp. 313-328.
  • Brown, Stephen. “The Rise and Fall of the Aid Effectiveness Norm”. European Journal of Development Research, vol. 32, no. 4 (2020), pp. 1230-1248.
  • Brown, Stephen and Jonathan Fisher. “Aid Donors, Democracy and the Developmental State in Ethiopia”. Democratization, vol. 27, no. 2 (2020), pp. 185-203.
  • Epprecht, Marc and Stephen Brown. “Queer Canada? The Harper Government and International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Rights”. In Rebecca Tiessen and Stephen Baranyi, eds. Obligations and Omissions: Canada’s Ambiguous Actions on Gender Equality. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press University, 2017, pp. 69-90.

Project Description

Strategic Litigation and the Decriminalization of Homosexuality in Africa

Studies of the politics of homosexuality in Africa tend to focus on various governments’ persecution and repression of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens. They emphasize international pressure to repeal discriminatory laws and underplay the efforts of local social movements, including their recent tactic of using test cases in domestic courts, known as “strategic litigation”. For instance, in 2019, bottom-up legal challenges led the judiciary to invalidate laws that criminalize homosexuality in Botswana, but failed to do so in Kenya.

The decriminalization of homosexuality is an important step in the realization of LGBT rights. However, strategic litigation can fail and, even if successful, is no panacea in ending state-sponsored discrimination, let alone gaining wider social acceptance. Moreover, even a narrow-focused legal approach requires significant strategic efforts and financial resources and involves trade-offs with other socio-political objectives. This project studies the politics of the groundbreaking strategic litigation in Africa. It addresses the following research questions: 1) How and why did LGBT activists decide to use strategic litigation? 2) How did they implement the strategy and why did they choose those tactics? 3) How did their approach influence the results? 4) What were the consequences of having focused their efforts on strategic litigation? This project will thus analyze the organizations’ key strategies, including the circulation of ideas, bridge-building with domestic and international allies, the raising of resources, how they embedded their efforts in the local socio-political context, the negotiation of trade-offs and their after-effects.



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