Modern African Childhoods: Does Law Matter?

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5 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter poses a question often aimed at lawyers, especially when they straddle a culturally diverse and contested terrain of human experience, such as the role of children and families in society: does law matter? The question is all the more pertinent in African contexts, due to the pervasive poverty, prevalence of practices harmful to children, and perceived inability of weak states to put legislative intentions into effect. The chapter commences in Part 9.2 with a discussion of pre-modern African childhood. Part 9.3 reviews the impact of colonial children's laws in constructions of childhood. It argues that even the adoption of colonial children's legislation during the twentieth century failed to dislodge the primacy of culture in African childhood literature, and that by and large, formal law remained irrelevant to children's lives. Part 9.4 examines the implications of ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child as far as the main question raised at the outset is concerned. Part 9.5 proposes that the introduction of a child rights discourse via the CRC and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, coupled with the implementation of large scale continental law reforms, has altered not only the legal landscape, but so too the present day understanding of childhood at a much more fundamental level. The conclusion that this chapter puts forward is that law does matter: and that an irreversible journey has been set in place which redefines African childhood.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLaw and Childhood Studies
Subtitle of host publicationCurrent Legal Issues
EditorsMichael Freeman
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780191739217
ISBN (Print)9780199652501
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012
Externally publishedYes


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