Journal Article

Enforcing the Law on Child Maintenance in Sub-Saharan Africa: a Case Study of Ghana

Siobhan E. Laird

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 25, issue 2, pages 220-243
Published in print August 2011 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online May 2011 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI:
Enforcing the Law on Child Maintenance in Sub-Saharan Africa: a Case Study of Ghana

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  • Marriage and the Family


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Legal enforcement of women's and children's rights under family law in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa has generally been weak. Using Ghana as a case study, this article investigates the challenges confronting the Department of Social Welfare and the Family Tribunal as they endeavour to enforce child maintenance agreements in Ghana. Semi-structured interviews with social workers reveal a raft of obstacles to enforcement. These include the mis-match between legislative provisions that require cash payments in a context of subsistence farming and integrated household livelihood strategies that involve material, not financial exchange. The study also identifies ethnocentric biases in statutory provision that disregard customary law concerning child care resulting in conflict between legislation and prevailing societal norms. The article links these findings to a consideration of child maintenance legislation in other African jurisdictions. It concludes by proposing reform of extant legislation on child maintenance in Ghana and elsewhere in the sub-Saharan region in order to achieve consonance between statutory provision and socio-economic reality. It is argued that this will enhance the ability of state agents to enforce the law.

Journal Article.  10043 words. 

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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