Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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Report highlights gender inequality in family laws across Africa

By our staff reporter

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In a comprehensive report titled “Gender Inequality in Family Laws in Africa: An Overview of Key Trends in Select Countries,” significant disparities and discriminatory practices within family laws across Africa have been brought to light. The report, which examines the legal frameworks of several African nations, sheds light on the prevailing gender inequalities and calls for urgent reforms to combat sexism and discrimination in family law systems.

The report, compiled by Equality Now in collaboration with FEMNET, Musawah, and SIHA, presents a detailed analysis of family laws in 20 selected countries. It reveals that none of the countries included in the study have achieved full legal equality in family law reform. Discrimination against women persists in various aspects, including child marriage, registration and legal recognition of marriages, polygamy, gender-based violence within the family, divorce, child custody, inheritance, and matrimonial property rights.

The findings indicate that legal pluralism, which includes the coexistence of civil, customary, and religious family law systems, poses a significant challenge to gender equality. Moreover, cultural and religious practices often impede progress and threaten the reversal of gains made in critical areas such as ending child marriage and female genital mutilation.

The report emphasizes the need for data-driven reforms and policy changes to address the systemic biases and discriminatory practices prevalent in family laws. It calls upon governments, policymakers, and judicial institutions to take immediate action to ensure gender equality within the family unit.

The Africa Family Law Network (AFLN), a coalition formed by Equality Now, FEMNET, Musawah, and SIHA, is set to utilize the report as a valuable resource for advocacy and evidence-based interventions. By collaborating with the policy and judicial organs of the African Union, particularly the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa, the AFLN aims to influence positive change and promote gender equality in family laws.

The report arrives at a critical juncture, coinciding with the launch of the AFLN. The network, supported by Equality Now, will leverage the findings of the report to engage in meaningful dialogue with policymakers and work towards comprehensive legal, policy, and practice reforms that eliminate gender-based discrimination in family laws.

As the African continent strives to achieve the goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 of the African Union, the report serves as a vital tool to drive meaningful changes in the lives of African girls and women. By dismantling discriminatory family laws, Africa can pave the way for a more just and equitable society, where every individual’s rights are protected and upheld.

The report concludes with a resounding call for action, urging stakeholders across Africa to seize the opportunity to effect lasting change and dismantle the barriers that perpetuate gender inequality within family laws.

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