Age of Marriage

Gaps in Family Laws in Africa Fuel Discrimination Against Women, Report Finds

Main image to the post Gaps in Family Laws in Africa Fuel Discrimination Against Women, Report Finds

A recent report by Equality Now sheds light on the pervasive discrimination faced by women and girls in Africa due to gaps in family laws across the continent. In countries like Sudan, women are unable to initiate divorce, leaving them stuck in marriages they wish to end. Furthermore, in cases where women are permitted to seek divorce, they may face obstacles in securing custody of their children from previous marriages upon remarriage, showcasing a further imbalance in family laws.

In Malawi, the report uncovers disturbing practices where courts have ruled that rape does not apply within marriage, perpetuating the presumption of perpetual consent to sex within marital relationships. Similarly, in Tanzania, marital rape is only considered a crime upon separation, overlooking the protection of women during the entirety of their marriage. Additionally, customary and religious laws in countries like Algeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria often disadvantage women and girls when it comes to inheritance by allocating them fewer resources compared to their male counterparts.

Experts like Hala Alkarib, the executive director for Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa, emphasize the debilitating effects of legal imbalances on women, highlighting how inequality leaves them vulnerable to poverty, violence, and limited opportunities. Furthermore, Francis Selasini, the executive director for Network Against Female Genital Mutilation in Tanzania, points out how communities sometimes bypass laws meant to protect women, such as in cases of genital mutilation where tactics evolve to circumvent legal consequences, like targeting babies to avoid prosecution.

In response to these concerning findings, Esther Waweru from Equality Now advocates for African states to harmonize their family laws with international human rights standards to ensure the protection and empowerment of women. Despite countries ratifying international treaties to safeguard women's rights, the persistence of discriminatory domestic laws poses challenges in upholding these agreements effectively. The report calls for urgent action to address the disparities and injustices faced by women and girls in African societies, urging governments to prioritize aligning their legal frameworks with global standards to promote gender equality and justice.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09