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Forced marriage, slavery, and plural legal systems: An African example

Sarich, Jody; Olivier, Michele; Bales, Kevin

Authors

Jody Sarich

Michele Olivier

Kevin Bales



Abstract

Slavery, long abolished under international law, left a devastating imprint on Africa. However, enslavement of women through forced marriages remains a common phenomenon in many African states. These African states share the common feature of legal pluralism where traditional legal systems continue to be observed alongside national laws in which slavery is outlawed. Where traditional practices condone the marriage of underage girls who are legally unable to consent, the questioning of age-old accepted forms of marriage can generate strong reactions. This article traces the position of forced and child marriages in international law, and investigates how legality becomes a moveable target when legal systems exist in parallel. Despite international and African Union conventions on slavery and human rights declaring that marriages not based on the full and free consent of both parties are considered a violation of human rights and a form of slavery, these practices persist. These instruments are assessed to gauge the level of conformity (or variance) of African state practice where forced marriages commonly occur. Importantly, the reasons behind noncompliance and the impact of legal pluralism are explored in African states where forced marriages commonly occur.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2016-05
Journal Human rights quarterly
Print ISSN 0275-0392
Electronic ISSN 1085-794X
Publisher Johns Hopkins University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 38
Issue 2
Pages 450-476
APA6 Citation Sarich, J., Olivier, M., & Bales, K. (2016). Forced marriage, slavery, and plural legal systems: An African example. Human rights quarterly, 38(2), 450-476 . https://doi.org/10.1353/hrq.2016.0030
DOI https://doi.org/10.1353/hrq.2016.0030
Keywords Forced marriage
Publisher URL http://muse.jhu.edu/article/617748
Additional Information Authors' accepted manuscript of article published in: Human rights quarterly, 2016, v.38, issue 2

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Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2016 The Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in Human rights quarterly, Volume 38, Issue 2, May, 2016, pages 450-476



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