Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-684899dbb8-bjz6k Total loading time: 0.528 Render date: 2022-05-29T06:34:22.575Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

The Role of Women's Movements in the Implementation of Gender-Based Violence Laws

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 January 2020

Nana Akua Anyidoho
University of Ghana
Gordon Crawford
Coventry University
Peace A. Medie
University of Bristol


The question of whether social movements can catalyze change has preoccupied researchers but an understanding of how such change can be created is equally important. Specifically, there has been little investigation of how women's movements engage in the process of implementation of women's rights laws. We use a case study of Ghana's Domestic Violence Coalition to examine the challenges that movements face in the policy implementation process. The Domestic Violence Coalition, a collective of women's rights organizations, was instrumental to the passage of Ghana's Domestic Violence Act in 2007. Our study investigates the coalition's subsequent attempts to influence the act's implementation. Drawing from the social movement literature, we apply an analytical framework consisting of three internal factors (strategies, movement infrastructure, and framing) and two external factors (political context and support of allies) that have mediated the coalition's impact on implementation. We find that changes in movement infrastructure are most significant in explaining the coalition's relative ineffectiveness, as these changes adversely affect its ability to employ effective strategies and take advantage of a conducive political context and the presence of allies. This article advances the literature on rights advocacy by women's movements by analyzing the challenge of translating success in policy adoption to implementation and explaining why women's movements may have less impact on implementation processes.

Research Article
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


The authors thank members of the Domestic Violence Coalition and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection who generously shared their time and experience in many interviews over seven years. They would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers and the editor.


Adomako Ampofo, Akosua. 2008. “Collective Activism: The Domestic Violence Bill Becoming Law in Ghana.” African and Asian Studies 7 (4): 395421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Agyekum-Gyasi, Collins, and Kyei-Boateng, Joseph. 2011. “DV Coalition Calls for Intensive Public Education.” Daily Graphic, March 31.Google Scholar
Amenta, Edwin, and Caren, Neal. 2004. “The Legislative, Organizational, and Beneficiary Consequences of State-Oriented Challengers.” In The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, eds. Snow, David A., Soule, Sarah A., and Kriesi, Hanspeter. Oxford: Blackwell, 461–88.Google Scholar
Amenta, Edwin, Caren, Neal, Chiarello, Elizabeth and Su, Yang. 2010. “The Political Consequences of Social Movements.” Annual Review of Sociology 36: 287307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Amenuveve, Vincent. 2012. “Pass LI on Domestic Violence Law.” Daily Graphic, June 13.Google Scholar
Andrews, Kenneth T. 2001. “Social Movements and Policy Implementation: The Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and the War on Poverty, 1965–1971.” American Sociological Review 66 (1): 7195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Anyidoho, Nana Akua, and Crawford, Gordon. 2014. “Leveraging National and Global Links for Local Rights Advocacy: WACAM's Challenge to the Power of Transnational Gold Mining in Ghana.” Canadian Journal of Development Studies 35 (4): 483502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Apusigah, Agnes Atia, Tsikata, Dzodzi, and Mukhopadyay, Maitrayee M.. 2011. Women's Rights Organizations and Funding Regimes in Ghana. Accra: Pathways of Women's Empowerment and Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy.Google Scholar
Basu, Amrita, ed. 2010. Women's Movements in the Global Era: The Power of Local Feminisms. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
Burgess, Gemma Lucy. 2012. “When the Personal Becomes Political: Using Legal Reform to Combat Violence against Women in Ethiopia.” Gender, Place & Culture 19 (2): 153–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Busch, Diane Mitsch. 1992. “Women's Movements and State Policy Reform Aimed at Domestic Violence against Women: A Comparison of the Consequences of Movement Mobilization in the United States and India.” Gender & Society 6 (4): 587608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Coker-Appiah, Dorcas, and Cusack, Kathy. (Eds.) 1999. Breaking the Silence and Challenging the Myths of Violence Against Women and Children in Ghana: Report of a National Study on Violence. Accra: Gender Rights and Documentation Center.Google Scholar
Crawford, Gordon, and Anyidoho, Nana Akua. 2013. “Ghana: Struggles for Rights in a Democratizing Context.” In Human Rights, Power and Civic Action: Comparative Analyses of Struggles for Rights in Developing Societies, eds. Andreassen, Bård A. and Crawford, Gordon. London: Routledge, 88119.Google Scholar
Cress, Daniel M., and Snow, David A.. 2000. “The Outcomes of Homeless Mobilization: The Influence of Organization, Disruption, Political Mediation, and Framing.” American Journal of Sociology 105 (4): 10631104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Daily Graphic. 2012. “DOVVSU Advocates LI on Domestic Violence Act.” June 22.Google Scholar
Daily Graphic. 2014. “Ministry Urged to Speed Up LI on Domestic Violence Act.” December 2.Google Scholar
Fallon, Kathleen M. 2008. Democracy and the Rise of the Women's Movements in Sub-Saharan Africa. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
Ghana News Agency. 2018. “Establish the Domestic Violence Support Fund Now—NGO.” February 21. (accessed November 14, 2019).Google Scholar
Glover, Benjamin Xoenam. 2010. “Ensure Effective Operation of DV Act.” Daily Graphic, February 9.Google Scholar
Government of Ghana. n.d. National Domestic Violence Policy and the Plan of Action to Implement Domestic Violence Act, 2007 (Act 732). 2009–2019. Accra: Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs, Government of Ghana.Google Scholar
Htun, Mala, and Laurel Weldon, S.. 2012. “The Civic Origins of Progressive Policy Change: Combating Violence against Women in Global Perspective, 1975–2005.” American Political Science Review 106 (3): 548–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
FM, Joy. 2017. “Gov't Given 6-Months to Put Money into Domestic Violence Fund.” March 17. (accessed October 30, 2019).Google Scholar
Jubb, Nadine. 2001. “Enforcing Gendered Meanings and Social Order: The Participation of The National Police in the Nicaraguan Women's and Children's Police Stations.” Presented at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the Latin America Studies Association, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
Kitschelt, Herbert P. 1986. “Political Opportunity Structures and Political Protest: Anti-nuclear Movements in Four Democracies.” British Journal of Political Science 16 (1): 5785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kriesi, Hanspeter. 2004. “Political Context and Opportunity.” In The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, eds. Snow, David A., Soule, Sarah A., Kriesi, Hanspeter. Oxford: Blackwell, 6790.Google Scholar
Lipsky, Michael. 2010. Street-Level Bureaucracy: The Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services. 30th anniversary ed. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Levi, Margaret, and Murphy, Gillian H.. 2006. “Coalitions of Contention: The Case of the WTO Protests in Seattle.” Political Studies 54 (4): 651–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Manuh, Takyiwaa, and Dwamena-Aboagye, Angela. 2013. “Implementing Domestic Violence Legislation in Ghana: The Role of Institutions.” In Feminist Activism, Women's Rights, and Legal Reform, ed. Al-Sharmani, Mulki. London: Zed Books, 203–34.Google Scholar
McAdam, Doug. 2012. “Conceptual Origins, Current Problems, Future Directions.” In Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements: Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Cultural Framings, eds. McAdam, Doug, McCarthy, John D., and Zald, Mayer N.. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2340.Google Scholar
McAdam, Doug, and Tarrow, Sidney. 2019. The Political Context of Social Movements. In The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, 2nd ed., eds. Snow, David A., Soule, Sarah A., Kriesi, Hanspeter, McCammon, Holly J.. Oxford: Blackwell, 1942.Google Scholar
McCammon, Holly J., Newman, Harmony D., Courtney Sanders Muse, and Terrell, Teresa M.. 2007. “Movement Framing and Discursive Opportunity Structures: The Political Successes of the U.S. Women's Jury Movements.” American Sociological Review 72 (5): 725–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Medie, Peace A. 2013. “Fighting Gender-Based Violence: The Women's Movement and the Enforcement of Rape Law in Liberia.” African Affairs 112 (448): 377–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Medie, Peace A. 2015. “Women and Postconflict Security: A Study of Police Response to Domestic Violence in Liberia.” Politics & Gender 11 (3): 478–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Medie, Peace A. 2018. “The Police: Laws, Prosecutions, and Women's Rights in Liberia.” In Institutions and Democracy in Africa: How the Rules of the Game Shape Political Development, ed. Cheeseman, Nic. New York: Cambridge University Press, 137–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Medie, Peace A., and Walsh, Shannon Drysdale. 2019. “International Organizations, NGOs, and Police Implementation of Domestic Violence Policies in Liberia and Nicaragua.” Politics & Gender. Published online October 18. Scholar
Montoya, Celeste. 2009. “International Initiative and Domestic Reforms: European Union Efforts to Combat Violence against Women.” Politics & Gender 5 (3): 325–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Quaicoe-Duho, Rebecca. 2008. “Coalition to Help Implement Domestic Violence Law.” Daily Graphic, January 8.Google Scholar
Quaicoe-Duho, Rebecca. 2011. “MOWAC Launches DV Support Fund.” Daily Graphic, November 25.Google Scholar
Quaicoe-Duho, Rebecca. 2012. “MOWAC Reviews Implementation of Domestic Violence Law.” Daily Graphic, January 12.Google Scholar
Tarrow, Sidney G. 2011. Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tripp, Aili Mari, Casimiro, Isabel, Kwesiga, Joy, and Mungwa, Alice. 2009. African Women's Movements: Transforming Political Landscapes. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Tsikata, Dzodzi. 2009. “Women's Organizing in Ghana since 1990s: From Individual Organizations to Three Coalitions.” Development 52 (2): 185–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tsikata, Edzodzinam. 1989. “Women's Political Organizations, 1951–1987.” In The State, Development and Politics in Ghana, eds. Hansen, Emmanuel and Ninsin, Kwame Akon. Dakar: Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), 7393.Google Scholar
Walsh, Shannon Drysdale. 2008. “Engendering Justice: Constructing Institutions to Address Violence Against Women.” Studies in Social Justice 2 (1): 4866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Walsh, Shannon Drysdale. 2015. “Transnational Advocacy Networks and Institution-Building: The Emergence of Women-Focused Policing Units.” Presented at the 23rd International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, May 27–30, San Juan, Puerto Rico.Google Scholar
Weldon, S. Laurel. 2006. “Inclusion, Solidarity, and Social Movements: The Global Movement against Gender Violence.” Perspectives on Politics 4 (1): 5574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weldon, S. Laurel. 2011. When Protest Makes Policy: How Social Movements Represent Disadvantaged Groups. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Role of Women's Movements in the Implementation of Gender-Based Violence Laws
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

The Role of Women's Movements in the Implementation of Gender-Based Violence Laws
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

The Role of Women's Movements in the Implementation of Gender-Based Violence Laws
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *