Repository logo

An Afrocentric approach to CRISPR-Cas9: analysing the use of genetic technologies in human reproduction through the lens of human rights and African values.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



In the wake of the advent of genome editing technology CRISPR-Cas9, there has been global debate about the potential use of this technology on human gametes or embryos to create individuals with genetically modified genomes. This is a process commonly referred to as germline genome editing (GGE). Given that several countries, including South Africa (SA), have no regulation speaking to GGE, many proposals have been put forward regarding how this technology ought to be regulated in a way that attends to the ethical issues raised by the prospect of modifying the genomes of future generations. Within this global discourse, however, there are several material gaps. Most notably, the proposals have primarily been framed through a Eurocentric paradigm that omits material contextual considerations relevant to SA and the African continent. Furthermore, the proposals tend to be based on value judgements on ethical issues — such as the moral significance of the human genome — rooted in the Western philosophical tradition. This thesis endeavours to respond to these gaps by providing a novel theoretical approach to the regulation of GGE in South Africa, termed an ‘Afrocentric approach’. This approach entails responding to the legal, ethical and human rights issues related to GGE that is rooted in an African philosophical perspective on these issues, and that is sensitive to the realities of the South African context. This thesis concludes that SA ought to be open to the prospect of parents modifying the genomes of future offspring but must also place reasonable and evidence-based constraints on GGE. This thesis finds that there is a tenable argument that prospective parents have a ‘right to CRISPR’, but this right may be limited. Such limitations must be rationally related to the goals of (1) protecting public interests, or (2) promoting the best interests of the prospective child.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.