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Unity Dow (born 23 April 1959) is a judge, human rights activist, and writer from Botswana. She came from a rural background that tended toward traditional values of the African kind. Her mother could not read English, and in most cases decision-making was done by men.
She studied law at the University of Botswana and Swaziland (LLB 1983), which included 2 years spent studying at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Her Western education caused a mixture of respect and suspicion.
As a lawyer she earned acclaim for her stances on women's rights. She was the plaintiff in a case that allowed the children of women by foreign nationals to be considered Batswana (Attorney General of Botswana v Unity Dow (1992)). Tradition, and prior precedent, stated nationality only descended from the father. She later became Botswana's first female High Court judge.
As a novelist she has now five books. These books often deal with issues concerning the struggle between Western and traditional values. They also involve her interest in gender issues and her nation's poverty. May 2010 her latest book was published by Harvard Press 'Saturday is for Funerals' which describes the AIDS problem in Africa. Unity Dow also contributed to the book "Schicksal Afrika" (Destiny Africa) by the former German President Horst Koehler in 2009.
Dow was one of three judges who (13 December 2006) decided the now internationally acclaimed Kgalagadi (San, Bushmen or Basarwa) court decision, concerning the rights of the San to return to their ancestral lands.
Dow has been a visiting professor of Law at the School of Law, Columbia University, New York, during the fall semester 2009, and further at Washington and Lee, Lexington USA, 2009, and University of Cincinnati, Ohio USA, 2009.
After retiring from the High Court Botswana in 2009, after 11 years of service, she opened the Legal Firm "Dow & Associates" in Botswana February 2010.
February 2010 Dow was sworn in as Justice of the IICDRC (Interim Independent Constitutional Dispute Resolution Court) of Kenya by the Kenyan President to serve implementing the new constitution in Kenya.
July 14, 2010, Dow was awarded the French Medal of the Légion d'honneur de France by representatives of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy for her human rights activities.
Women of the World Summit March 2011 and 2012 in New York mentioned Unity Dow as one of 150 women who shake the world (http://www.thedailybeast.com/interactive/women-in-the-world/150-women-who-shake-the-world/)
Unity Dow served as Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists. She was first elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2009. In 2006 she was elected to the Executive Committee and re-elected in 2008. March 2011 she was elected the Chairperson of the Executive Committee succeeding Dr. Rajeev Dhavan, India, effective June 2011 to June 2012.
July 6, 2012 Unity Dow was appointed by The United Nations Human Rights Council as one of three independent experts to conduct a fact-finding mission on how Israel's West Bank settlements affect Palestinians. A preliminary version of the report published January 31, 2013 aroused much discussion.
Unity Dow received Awards and Honours (selected): Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio USA: Doctor of Laws: Honorary degree awarded May 19, 2001; Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey: The William Brennan Human Rights Award,April 14, 2003; The Vanguard Women Leadership Award: March 2004; St. Michael College, Vermont USA: Doctor of Laws: Honorary Degree awarded May 2007; The Phyllis N. Stern Distinguished Lectureship Award: July 11, 2008; The Prominent Woman in International Law Award: March 26, 2009 in Washington DC; University of Edinburgh: Doctor of Laws: Honorary Degree awarded July 30, 2009; French Medal of Honour (Légion d'honneur) July 2010;
- Far and Beyon' Longman Botswana, 2000, Spinifex, 2001
- The Screaming of the Innocent, Spinifex 2002, Double Storey, 2003
- Juggling Truths, Spinifex, 2003
- The Heavens May Fall, Double Storey, 2006
- Saturday is for Funerals, Harvard Press, 2010
- "Honorary Degree - Justice Unity Dow". Celebrating 100 Years of Women in Law: An Edinburgh Centenary. Edinburgh: The University of Edinburgh, School of Law. Retrieved 5 October 2010.