Family Laws and Policies in Sub-Saharan Africa

Clifford O. Odimegwu - Family Demography and Post-2015 Development Agenda in Africa


Family constitutes more than simple living arrangements, and these systems are of pivotal development importance in sub-Saharan Africa. The diversity of family structures and types in sub-Saharan Africa has warranted an examination of the various policies and laws in the region. This paper examines all policy and laws related to families in the South, West, East and Central regions of sub-Saharan Africa. The paper highlights the sundry of policies and laws that are influenced by cultural and religious differences within and across regions. Issues relating to patriarchy and religions are seen in the policies relating to marriage, particularly in the Western region, while more gender-balanced and child protective policies are seen in the Southern region of the continent. In the policies and laws of the East, a shift to more generalised recognition on diverse family forms such as civil marriages can be seen, and the Central African countries’ gender discrimination in inheritance and legalised marriages from age 15 for females remain problematic. In conclusion, the disparities in laws and policies that perpetuate gender inequality contribute to the continued vulnerability of females and children in sub-Saharan Africa.