Decolonising and decriminalising child marriage in Africa
Child marriages, often attributed to culture and gender inequality, are prevalent across Africa. Several countries have moved to criminalise the practice. At the core of the criminalisation debate are the fundamental tensions between statutory (state) law on the one hand, and religious and customary law on the other. The growing momentum towards punishment, targeted almost invariably at male offenders, is meant to address the conflict between cultural practices that lead to child marriage and the protection of children's rights. However, some countries have not criminalised child marriage. Thus, the outlawry of child marriages is not universal on the continent. The agitation towards criminalisation—I describe this as ‘popular punitvism’ ‐ as a panacea, is animated by Western penological justifications, principally, deterrence. However, Western criminological and penological theories may not fully account for a phenomenon in other social and geographical spaces. The paper argues for decolonising and decriminalising child marriages in Africa but not legalising it.
Nyamutata, C. (2023) Decolonising and decriminalising child marriage in Africa. Sociology Compass, 17 (12), e13131
Centre for Law, Justice and Society