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Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 173–188 | Cite as

The majority legal status of women in Southern Africa: Implications for women and families

  • Mary P. Van Hook
  • Barbara N. Ngwenya
Article

Abstract

Women in many countries of southern Africa do not have majority status or have only recently gained this right. Majority status grants individuals adult legal status and the right to bring matters to court, own and administer property, have legal custody of children, and contract for marriage. This article summarizes the legal status of women in Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Lack of majority status contributes to the ongoing risk of poverty for women and makes them overly dependent on men. Compounding the situation in these countries is the presence of a dual legal system. Improving the situation of women and their families involves targeting changes in the legal system, influencing implementation of laws, educating women about their rights, and giving women needed support to seek their legal rights. The legal status of women must be viewed in the context of historical changes in the economic, educational, political, and cultural developments of society.

Key Words

African families African women legal rights poverty 

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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary P. Van Hook
    • 1
  • Barbara N. Ngwenya
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of Central FloridaUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WorkUniversity of MichiganUSA
  3. 3.Department of Social WorkUniversity of BotswanaUSA

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