The Retention of Colonial Laws Against African Women

Authored by: Alaba Oludare

The Routledge Handbook on Africana Criminologies

Print publication date:  December  2020
Online publication date:  December  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367435721
eBook ISBN: 9781003004424
Adobe ISBN:


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Historically, the economics of Africa was based largely on agriculture and like exchanges. By the 15th century, Europeans began to arrive at the coast of Africa, originally to trade in goods and services, including gold, copper, iron, and slave labor. In order to gain political and sequential economic hegemony, they introduced the cash cropping system to replace the traditional agricultural economy in which both men and women participated equally. African men began to move out of traditional agricultural work to employment on plantations and in mines for cash while women stayed back to farm and feed the family. During the period when the colonialists began to create local political offices, they also established customary laws, taking into account the views of elitist men who worked with the colonialist agents who were also men. They ignored the traditional role of women as co-participants in local politics and economics. The introduction of customary laws based on European laws without the input of African women inevitably led to women being discounted and downgraded, especially on issues regarding marriage, divorce, and female sexuality. This chapter examines the impact of colonial laws on African women by utilizing a historical framework to trace the development of the role of women as wives, mothers, and public figures in the economic and political landscape in Africa from the precolonial era to the advent and retention of colonial laws in contemporary times.

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