Journal Article

COMPETING ‘IMAGES’ OF CHILDHOOD IN THE SOCIAL AND LEGAL SYSTEMS OF CONTEMPORARY SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

BART RWEZAURA

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 12, issue 3, pages 253-278
Published in print December 1998 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online December 1998 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/lawfam/12.3.253
COMPETING ‘IMAGES’ OF CHILDHOOD IN THE SOCIAL AND LEGAL SYSTEMS OF CONTEMPORARY SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

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During this decade Africa has joined hands with the rest of the world in declaring its determination to promote and protect the rights of the child. To this end many states have ratified regional and international treaties on children's rights and others have even enshrined children's rights in their national constitutions. However, notwithstanding such initiatives, the reality of children's lives in Africa remains substantially unchanged. This essay considers the effect of economic and social forces on the enforcement of laws and treaties designed to protect the interests of children. Using the concept of competing images of childhood I argue that the perception of the child as a family resource in pre-capitalist African social systems, which has persisted in certain families, conflicts with the idea that children are separate individuals vested with certain rights. Furthermore, the worsening economic situation in Africa has seemingly reinforced the image of the child as a family asset without ensuring the survival of the old safeguards intended to prevent the abuse of children. It is argued, therefore, that any effort to raise the status of an African child must begin with an appreciation of the current social and economic context given that it is such a powerful force on the lives of most children in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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