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Gender Inequality In Family Laws In Africa: An Overview Of Key Trends In Select Countries

This Report assesses the current status of family laws in 20 African countries, analyzing their compliance with the Maputo Protocol, CEDAW, and other relevant global and regional human rights treaties. 

What’s inside the report?

  • Analysis of family laws in 20 select countries in all regions of Africa across nine broad themes: Legal pluralism; Child marriage; Registration and legal recognition of marriages; Polygamy; Gender-based violence within the family (marital rape and domestic violence); Divorce; Child custody; Inheritance; and Matrimonial property. 
  • Recommendations for reform to ensure equality in the family across Africa. 

Who’s it for? 

  • Law and policymakers 
  • Legal professionals 
  • Civil society 
  • Development partners and donor agencies
  • Research and academic institutions

Key findings

Family law discrimination and persistent gender inequality in Africa are exacerbated by a multitude of challenges, including the complexity of legal pluralism and intersecting civil, customary, and religious family law systems. These challenges encompass issues such as child marriage, obstacles to marriage registration and legal recognition, polygamy, marital rape, domestic violence, and violations of equal rights to divorce settlements, child custody, inheritance, and matrimonial property.

The Report highlights that while there have been advancements in family law reform across the continent, progress has been slow and inconsistent. The effectiveness of some progressive laws is diminished by clawback clauses and actions. Additionally, certain Member States persist in lodging reservations against Article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Articles 6 and 7 of the Maputo Protocol, citing cultural and/or religious grounds.  

Equality in the family in law and in practice must be realized to achieve an equal, integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa.


Explore the full report:

Explore the key findings and recommendations in English and French:

Explore the Annex:

Explore the key findings and recommendations by country:

Contact us 

For more information, contact Esther Waweru, Senior Legal Advisor, Legal Equality at Equality Now, at

Learn more

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