Blood, Land, and Sex

Blood, Land, and Sex

Legal and Political Pluralism in Eritrea
Lyda Favali and Roy Pateman
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 06/18/2003
Format: Paperback 1 bibliog., 1 index
ISBN: 978-0-253-21577-2
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In Eritrea, state, traditional, and religious laws equally prevail, but any of these legal systems may be put into play depending upon the individual or individuals involved in a legal dispute. Because of conflicting laws, it has been difficult for Eritreans to come to a consensus on what constitutes their legal system. In Blood, Land, and Sex, Lyda Favali and Roy Pateman examine the roles of the state, ethnic groups, religious groups, and the international community in several key areas of Eritrean law—blood feud or murder, land tenure, gender relations (marriage, prostitution, rape), and female genital surgery. Favali and Pateman explore the intersections of the various laws and discuss how change can be brought to communities where legal ambiguity prevails, often to the grave harm of women and other powerless individuals. This significant book focuses on how Eritrea and other newly emerging democracies might build pluralist legal systems that will be acceptable to an ethnically and religiously diverse population.

Author Bio

Lyda Favali is a lawyer and researcher in Comparative Law at the University of Turin, Italy.

Roy Pateman is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is author of Eritrea: Even the Stones Are Burning and Chaos and Dancing Star.


“This significant book focuses on how Eritrea and other newly emerging democracies might build pluralistic legal systems that will be acceptable to an ethnically and religiously diverse population. ”

“Pateman (Univ. of California, Los Angeles) and Favali (law, Univ. of Turin, Italy) use a legal pluralist approach in an admirable attempt to unravel the intricate fabric of Eritrea's system of law. Eritrea is not atypical of African states with a population abundant in ethnic, social, linguistic, and religious diversity overlaid with a colonial past, a liberation struggle, a transitional era, and independence. For every legal issue there is a state rule, a traditional rule, and a sharia rule that may or may not differ because of divergence between state and ethnic or religious groups. Four major actors—the state, ethnies (producing traditional law), religious groups (mainly Coptic Christians and Sunni Muslims), and the international/transnational community—operate in this maze and define contemporary Ethiopian law. Complicating this task is the use of languages of state law, Amharic, Arabic, Italian, English, and now Tigrinya incomprehensible to many in a society dependent on oral traditions. The authors analyze Eritrea's pluralist system in case studies involving the interconnected issues of blood (vengeance, feud, money, and settlement of conflicts), property rights, and sex (marriage, gender, and women's rights). Conclusions are in abeyance because the dictatorship of Isaias Afweki is in legal limbo with a new constitution not in force. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate collections and beyond.”
 — T. M. Vestal, Oklahoma State University , 2004mar CHOICE

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Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents:
Preface and Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
1. Facts and Ideas: The Struggle for Power and Legitimacy
2. From Tradition to Globalization
3. Changing Leadership, Unchanging Law
4. The Transitional Period and Attempts at Legal Reform
5. From Blood Feud and Blood Money to the State Settlement of Murder Cases
6. Land Tenure on the Highland Plateau
7. Land Disputes and Conflict Resolution
8. The Virgin, the Wife, the Spinster, and the Concubine: Gender Roles and Gender Relations
9. Female Genital Mutilation: Symbol, Tradition, or Survival?
10. Creating Space in a Changing World for Traditional and Religious Law
Selected Bibliography