Publication Details

Mugumbate, J., & Gray, M. (2021). Misrecognition of the rights of people with epilepsy in Zimbabwe: A social justice perspective, p. 85-103. In V. Sewpaul, L. Kreitzer & T. Raniga (Ed.), The Tensions between Culture and Human Rights: Emancipatory Social Work and Afrocentricity in a Global World. Calgary: University of Calgary Press.

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The Tensions between Culture and Human Rights


Epilepsy affects 4 to 14 people per 1,000, that is, an estimated 50 million people worldwide, making it the most common global neurological condition (Shorvon, 2009; WHO, 2016). It is more prevalent in the Global South, where 80 percent of people with epilepsy reside, due to “poorer perinatal care and standards of nutrition and public hygiene, and the greater risk of brain injury, cerebral infection, or other acquired cerebral conditions” (Shorvon, 2009, p. 3). In Africa alone, epilepsy directly affects about 10 million people (WHO, 2015). Indigenous cultural and religious misunderstanding affects the management of this neurological condition in many parts of the world, especially in Africa. This has led to misrecognition of the rights of people living with epilepsy, which leaves them socially isolated and makes it difficult for them to develop social networks and to access treatment, education and training, and employment. This chapter explores the misrecognition and misrepresentation of people with epilepsy, and associated injustices relating to dominant indigenous cultural and religious perspectives on epilepsy in Africa and consequent human rights omissions found in a study of persons with epilepsy in Harare, Zimbabwe. It provides an overview of perspectives on epilepsy in Africa and the injustices stemming from the continued exclusion of people with epilepsy in Zimbabwe. It suggests that Nancy Fraser’s (2000, 2001, 2008, 2010) theory of social justice offers a framework for understanding the injustices ensuing from the misrecognition of people with epilepsy and ends by suggesting an integrated rights-based model for epilepsy management in Zimbabwe and other African countries.