Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2011

Publication Citation

18 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 199 (2011)


The post-Cold War dispensation in Togo, West Africa, ushered in a new lexicon of politically salient terms, among them droits de 1'homme. Initially deployed in the early 1990s by members of the political opposition to expose dictatorial abuse, this potent signifier then found its way into society at large and, spurred by NGO support, was taken up by women's groups in struggles over gender inequality. This essay explores droits de l'homme's itinerary in the villages of northern Togo where teenage children embraced the term in proclaiming their freedom from parental control. Ironically, the same children now leave their villages to labor in Nigeria, declaring their "right" to abandon family and to participate in a labor regime that the United Nations and the NGOs describe as "child trafficking" and a new form of enslavement-and thus as a violation of these children's "rights."

Human Rights and Legal Systems Across the Global South, Symposium, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Bloomington, Indiana. 9-10 April 2010.