Children’s rights and parental authority: African perspectives

Authored by: Julia Sloth-Nielsen

Routledge Handbook of Family Law and Policy

Print publication date:  May  2014
Online publication date:  May  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415640404
eBook ISBN: 9780203796221
Adobe ISBN: 9781134447534


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Traditionally, children in African societies were raised communally, with extended family members playing a vital role in child rearing and care. The adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ epitomised this communitarian philosophy. 1 Further, the very definition of childhood was affected, as transitions to adulthood under customary systems depended variously on life events such as marriage or forming an independent homestead, and the end of childhood was not linked to chronological age. As regards parental authority, children were subjected to absolute minority status until they attained the requisite adult status, which could occur well into adult life only.

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