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School of Law


Aparna Polavarapu

Title: Associate Professor of Law
School of Law
Phone: 803-777-8925

1525 Senate Street
Room 238
Columbia, SC 29208


CV [pdf]


Aparna Polavarapu


Professor Polavarapu is an Associate Professor at the UofSC School of Law and the Executive Director and Founder of the South Carolina Restorative Justice Initiative.  She has over a decade of experience working in human rights and rule of law, both domestically and abroad. She has significant expertise in the field of legal pluralism, with a particular research focus on informal, community-driven justice systems and how they work together with formal, state-centered systems. Her research has covered a wide range of topics, including legal innovations used by courts to expand access to constitutional justice, the use of restorative justice mechanisms to combat domestic violence in Uganda, and how customary and statutory law interact to govern land rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Much of her scholarship draws from her direct experience working with women’s rights groups in sub-Saharan Africa and in the United States 

As the Executive Director of the South Carolina Restorative Justice Initiative, she oversees the development of restorative justice education and programming and works with organizations seeking to develop and implement their own restorative practices.

In addition, Professor Polavarapu continues to work with practitioners on domestic and global women’s rights and justice matters. She has instructed practitioners on international rule of law topics, including African customary law, legal pluralism, and strategies for promoting human rights in legally pluralist systems. She has authored or contributed to expert human rights reports for organizations such as the UN Foundation and the Center for Reproductive Rights. Locally, she has testified before the South Carolina Senate on legislation affecting women and conducted trainings on restorative justice.

Professor Polavarapu teaches courses in Restorative and Transformative Justice, Comparative Law, Rule of Law, Transnational Law, and International Human Rights Law. Prior to coming to South Carolina, Professor Polavarapu was a Teaching Fellow with Georgetown's International Women's Human Rights Clinic. Prior to that, she practiced law at Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP in Boston. She received an LLM and JD from Georgetown University Law Center, an MA in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and a BS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



  • Comparative Law (LAWS 780)
  • International Human Rights Skills Course (LAWS 733)
  • Transnational Law (LAWS 784)
  • Rule of Law Seminar (LAWS 815)

Selected Scholarship

  • Without Land, Without Justice: How Women’s Lack of Land Rights Impedes Access to Justice, in Gender, Poverty and Access to Justice: Policy Implementation in Sub-Saharan Africa (2020).
  • Global Carceral Feminism and Domestic Violence: What the West can Learn from Reconciliation in Uganda, 42 Harv. J. L. & Gender 123 (2019).
  • Expanding Standing to Protect Democracy, 41 Yale J. Int’l L. 105 (2016).
  • Initial Reflections on an Interdisciplinary Approach to Rule of Law Studies, 8 L. & Dev. Rev. 277 (2015) (with Joel Samuels).
  • Reconciling Indigenous and Women’s Rights to Land in Sub-Saharan Africa, 42 Ga. J. Int’l & Comp. L. 93 (2013).
  • Procuring Meaningful Land Rights for the Women of Rwanda, 14 Yale Hum. Rts. & Dev. L.J. 105 (2011).
  • Child Marriage and Guardianship in Tanzania: Robbing Girls of their Childhood and Infantilizing Women, 7 Geo. J. Gender & L 357 (2006) (with Tamar Ezer, Kate Kerr, Tina Tolentino, and Kara Major).

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