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Inventing the African family: gender and family law reform in Cote D'Ivoire.

When the National Assembly of the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire amended the family code in 1983, granting women equity with their husbands within legal marriages as well as greater financial autonomy, the Association des Femmes Ivoiriennes (AFI) rightly took credit for having succeeded in translating its vision of the Ivoirian family into law. The advent of African women's activism in the legal arena marked a departure from earlier periods, when the status of women, under both customary and secular law, was determined by men: first by missionaries an colonial administrators, who sought reforms based on foreign models, and subsequently by African men, who attempted to preserve both lineage interests and male control over the modern economy. Although in each case the men declare that their actions improved the condition of African women, female subordinatio remained the rule. In fact, patriarchal dominance in the society overall was reinforced, and male authority in the household strengthened. Until the emergence of the AFI--a small, politically motivated, Western-educated female elite-the status of Ivoirian women within marriages was thus legally defined soled by men. The inclusion of Ivoirian women's voices distinguishes the 1983 legislation from former laws that determined women's rights in the private domain.

This is not to say, of course, that prior to 1983 women were politically passive. Increasingly, scholars are recognizing that women's activism often too nontraditional forms that were frequently invisible to Western observers.(1) Characteristically, however, women have, on the whole, been left out of earlier analytical studies of Cote d'Ivoire. For example, in December 1949 political leaders incarcerated in the Grand Bassam jail staged a hunger strike, whereupon a multiethnic coalition of women attempted to liberate the prisoners. Describin this event, Zolberg, drawing on the official government report, states simply that "over 500 women marched from Abidjan to Bassam, a distance of about 30 miles, to demonstrate in front of the jail"(2)--although, as Henriette Diabate later discovered, some two thousand women actually participated in the march.(3 Likewise, Cohen passed lightly over the participation of Ivoirian women at the first National Council meeting in 1969. As Cohen pointed out, these women presented a list of eleven grievances related to topics as diverse as racial discrimination in "female" jobs, teen pregnancy, mass education and adult literacy, prenatal and infant care, road construction, high market taxes, prostitution, and the lack of women's awareness of the civil code. Despite his in-depth treatment of the issues presented by other interest groups, however, h neither analyzed these grievances nor conjectured about the women's potential t influence the state. Who were these women? If, as Cohen reports, one woman told President Houphouet that "you give us the impression we have wings"(4), shouldn't we ask to what extent the president in fact supported their efforts? Instead, one is left to wonder whether the women's grievances were taken any more seriously by the national party than by the scholar.

Such lapses on the part of eminent scholars notwithstanding, it is clear that, in response to changes in the political system, new economic imperatives, and increasing social responsibilities, Ivoirian women have now begun to participat in the formulation of family laws that directly impinge upon their juridical status. Family laws, like any other laws, reflect the experience and aspiration of their creators.(5) In essence, they invent a national image of family, and, with each round of revisions in family law, a new blueprint is imposed upon the nation's citizens. Moreover, social change brought about by new economic and political initiatives transforms the interpretation of written and unwritten laws. As Chanock has noted, customary law, so designated by colonial authorities, was not a stagnant, nonevolving, precolonial juridical system, but rather mirrored local adaptations to changing political, economic, and social circumstances. Throughout the colonial period, customary laws were constantly adjusting, through juridical reform, to local realities, thereby "redistributin power in social life" and bringing about "a change in relationships between generations and between sexes".(6) The dynamism of the African social systems h describes continues to have its impact on legal frameworks in independent African nations, just as it did during the colonial period.

The use of law as a means of social engineering, however, is no longer at the center of the debate over what is to be learned from the codification of marriage and family laws.(7) Studies of juridical systems are focusing instead on the social processes that lead to the adoption of legal codes.(8) Women's status in society tends, moreover, to be prescriptive of civil codes, particularly with regard to family, even when women do not play a direct role i establishing those codes--as the AFI did.(9) In the present case, a consideration of the social processes that lie behind the evolution of civil codes reveals Ivoirian women as principal negotiators for social change and legal reform. This study examines how Ivoirian family laws have finally been revised to include a vision of the family created by women.

I first became aware of the subtleties of women's political influence during my fifteen-year residence in Cote d'Ivoire. When the national daily, Fraternite Matin, announced that a new family code had been approved by the National Assembly, the people accepted it as a fait accompli, much like other decisions generated from the top. When I inquired among the AFI women I knew about the circumstances under which the new code had been developed, I discovered that most of their maneuvers had taken place behind the scenes, whether in their own households and families or in high government circles. The present paper is thu informed not only by written sources but also by my perceptions, based on such interviews, of how Ivoirian families work, of why women objected to the old civil code, and of how the elite women of the AFI defined and pursued their interests. It documents the historical processes that culminated in the formulation of these women's vision of family and attempts to describe transformations in their marital status in recent history.

One critical consideration here is the question of whether educated elite women such as those of the AFI, can in fact achieve true political power and speak to the needs of women nationally. Elite women have been criticized for their inability to become effective agents for change beyond the limits of their own specific interests. Indeed, as Staudt argues, African women--whether elite or nonelite--have accomplished few significant political and/or economic goals in the independence period, in part because these women are unable to impress government and party officials with the importance of their needs over those of other "better-endowed groups".(10) Staudt appears to infer that women are wholl incapable of accomplishing anything of national importance in the political arena on the grounds that "if women--elite or otherwise--opt for participation, they risk three outcomes: scapegoating, cooptation, and overwhelming odds against achieving gender-based redistribution of resources, if this goal is eve articulated."(11)

Furthermore, as Fatton points out, a woman's status, or class affiliation, is very often dependent upon that of her father or husband, with the result that certain women can always claim membership in the ruling class. But, Fatton argues, the ability of such privileged women to accomplish political or economi objectives should not be mistaken for equality in the political arena: "These few successful women should not mask the overall African reality that men and women of the same class are fundamentally unequal. In general, a woman's access to state resources and hence to class power hinges upon her male linkages."(12) True enough, and certainly the risks to which Staudt calls attention are very real. The fact remains, however, that the AFI, much like any other "minority" interest group operating within a one-party state, used whatever influence they had in this case the very linkages to powerful men that Fatton views as problematic--to gain a redistribution of power within marriage and allow women to reassert control over their personal property, both self-acquired and inherited.

Clearly, the members of the AFI worked behind closed doors to achieve these political goals, taking advantage of relationships that Staudt would also argue are counterproductive to women. In Staudt's assessment,

The idea of women working politically for women and conceptualizing women as a gender class has radical, redistributive implications. It serves ruling elite interests to bind elite women to their households through economic dependency and domestic-focused gender ideology. If those material and ideological interests did not exist, ties to other women ... would become more significant politically and would likely produce a more equal distribution of power and resources between women and men.(13)

We have to be careful, however, not to assume that "economic dependency and domestic-focused gender ideology"--principal elements in the model of Christian marriage transmitted by missionaries--will consistently outweigh both socioeconomic imperatives and traditional ethnic patterns. Such an approach would leave us with little conceptual room in which to address the conflicts created, for example, by socioeconomic change or by the inadequacy of Western-style marriage practices vis-a-vis customary expectations. But it was precisely these tensions to which the AFI women responded. In leading the struggle for change, they survived attacks on their character and submitted to certain degree of cooptation, as other clients of the regime often had. Nonetheless, they managed to lobby successfully for changes in the family code--changes that would affect households throughout the nation. Any legally married Ivoirian woman, regardless of class, stood to benefit from the new laws In short, even though these women were elites, whose political clout depended o their affiliation to their powerful male superiors and who may have acted more out of self-interest than any overarching sense of female solidarity, ultimatel they did achieve national reform.

The steps leading up to the women's formulation of their vision and the adoptio of new laws reveal important, interconnecting themes, such as tensions between colonial policies and Christian missions, the intersection of class and ethnicity, and the impact of Westernization. Each of these aspects has competed for the attention of legislators, as well as social scientists, whenever the door to reform of African households has swung open.

Matrilineal and Patrilineal

In Cote d'Ivoire, as in most African countries, the marriage, succession, and inheritance practices of any given ethnic group are broadly determined by one o two descent systems: matrilineal or pattilineal. For analytical purposes, the numerous ethnic groups in Cote d'Ivoire can be classified into five linguistic families: Akan (42.5 percent), Kru (17.5 percent), Northern Mande (15 percent), Southern Mande (12 percent), and Voltaic (13 percent). Although about two-third of the overall Ivoirian population still adheres to traditional African religions, Islam--whose adherents make up roughly one quarter of the population has had its effects on the social system of the Northern Mande, in particular. Likewise, Christianity, while less widespread (at about 12 percent), has taken hold among the Akan and the Kru in the southern regions of the country, especially along the coast. The Mande and Kru practice patrilineal descent, whereas the Akan are fully matrilineal, with the Voltaic apparently in a state of transition, employing both matrilineal and patrilineal systems.(14)

Under the matrilineal descent system, such as among the Akan(15)--the group to whom the majority of AFI women belonged--a woman controls her personal wealth (including rights of usage over parcels of land), may inherit wealth from femal matrikin, and may receive gifts from any of her maternal kin, male or female. Any children she bears belong to her lineage and inherit from their maternal kin.(16) Upon death, a male is succeeded by his sister's sons. Among the Akan, woman may even assume leadership in the community if there is no strong male candidate, although her brothers and maternal uncles remain dominant male figures. Thus, most decisions that women make in the management of their affair are in the interest of their children and maternal kin (Douglas 1969, 121-35; Dikeble and Hiba 1972, 377-88). Even colonial regulations that abolished the bride-price, introduced the idea of consent, and established a minimum age for marriage did not directly threaten the Akan matrilineal descent system: childre born of marriage were still able to inherit from the matrilineage.

Generally, in systems of patrilineal descent, upon her marriage authority over woman is transferred from her patrilineal relatives (father, brother, or paternal uncles) to her husband and his patrilineage, and her bride-price is received by her patrikin. If divorced, she is returned home empty-handed, and the bride-price reimbursed by her relatives. Succession and inheritance pass through the father's lineage along vertical or lateral lines that favor sons or brothers, and children belong to the patrikin. Unlike their Akan counterparts, these women may not inherit wealth, assume leadership, or exercise any authorit over men. Although Muslim law, the shari'ah, includes tenets intended to protec the rights of women, there seems to be little difference between the status of Muslim women and that of their non-Muslim patriarchal counterparts. Upon the death of her husband, a Muslim wife is given to his brother (the practice of levirate), usually with her consent, and thus remains under the control of her husband's patrilineage. The wives of a deceased, polygynous man together inheri one-eighth of their husband's wealth, which is divided among them.(17)

Although the tendency for women to exercise economic independence was understandably more widespread within matrilineal societies, women from patrilineal groups were known to subvert their economic subordination by retaining profits from activities such as the manufacture of crafts, trade, raising livestock, or farming on their own separate plots. They also kept up relationships with their own kin groups, to whom they frequently returned (for childbirth, for example)--a "dual allegiance" that afforded them a means to direct personal wealth outside their husbands' households. Now, as a result of coping with strains and tensions in the labor market, women from patrilineal groups are increasingly becoming even more aware of opportunities to exercise financial autonomy.(18)

Thus, these systems, while traditional, are by no means inflexible. Transformations in descent systems have been documented, for example, in response to socioeconomic changes in Cote d'Ivoire's neighboring country Ghana, where Gwendolyn Mikell found that cocoa production threatened Akan women's control over the transfer of land as inherited property. Whereas once a woman's desire to leave property to sisters or daughters, even if it was officially undocumented, had been respected, with the increase in widespread cocoa production following World War II matters changed. Women responded by transferring ownership before their death or relying on written wills in order to prevent their property from returning to patriarchal control within the matrilineage.(19) In her study of patrilineal Ga women in Accra, Ghana, Claire Robertson demonstrated that women expressed their independence from the lineage by investing in self-acquired up ban properties, which they protected for their preferted heirs by written or verbal wills.(20) In each case, the mutability of the descent system becomes apparent, as women find ways to defy patriarchal lineage controls over personal property.

Missionaries, Colonial Administrators, and Christian Marriages

French missionaries were initially more interested in emancipating slaves, increasing legitimate trade, and promoting French civilization than in advancin the status of women per se. During the nineteenth century, Christian missionaries began advocating an end to slavery and sought the support of the French parliamentarians to achieve it.(21) Only later did the Catholic missions begin to realize that in order to accomplish the evangelical goals of their mission, they needed to create Christian families. As it stood, older generations of patriarchs typically monopolized young women during the latter's most fertile years, with the result that young, virile men found it difficult t acquire wives. But as the missionaries came to recognize, their male converts required not only wives but Christian wives, without whom the mission would be dismal failure. As one missionary put it, "The special objective of Catholic missions is to save the individual But, in addition to that end is another, jus as great ... which is to Christianize the family, the society, and the entire people."(22) Thus, missionaries had to search for ways to convince the colonial administration to be more supportive of women seeking to assert their right to individual choice, whether in marriage or religion.(23)

For their part, French colonial administrators had been instructed to respect African customs whenever these did not conflict with the basic principles of French civilization. This administrative directive did not, however, discourage the missionaries. Quite to the contrary, it inspired them to embark upon an active policy to induce radical social change. They pointed out that while many emancipated slave women (who made up about 60 percent of adult slaves) managed to flee their former masters either in groups or with male protectors, others, unsure of their security beyond the compound and village of their captivity, remained as concubines or wives of their ex-masters. Nor had French administrators (who were much more interested in having free access to African men as forced laborers) insisted upon the departure of women from households in which they had been held enslaved.(24) Thus, the missionaries contended, the mere liberation of enslaved women had not generally ameliorated their subordinate status.

The missionaries further argued that, despite the liberation of slaves, traditional marriages continued to deprive African women of rights that were considered fundamental to Christian principles. In their view, a significant number of African social customs--polygynous marriages, the repudiation of wives, child betrothal, and the lack of any requirement for female consent--were, like slavery, violations of the laws of God. The missionaries maintained that female subordination to the patriarchal heads of extended families prevented women from exercising free will--a necessity for Christian conversion. Legal means were needed, they concluded, to protect the young femal catechist, who, according to traditional marriage customs, could be given in marriage at any time, without her consent, by relatives laying claim to her bride-price. Missionaries consequently persisted in their demands that the administration pass legislation against the repression of women's individual liberties, arguing that such repression indeed contradicted the fundamental principles of French civilization.(15)

Persistent appeals by missionaries led to changes in French colonial policy wit respect to women as administrators accepted, albeit reluctantly, some limited application of the missionary vision in native tribunals. In 1931 Jules Brevie, governor general of French West Africa, reorganized the local justice system, although he advocated a continuation of ethnic traditions where family, succession, gifts, and contracts were concerned. In his instructions, however, he advised his agents to use their judgment when considering the impact of French civilization and imported religions on African societies, and to allow for contemporary interpretations of customary law. In 1934 Lt. Governor Roume o Cote d'Ivoire was willing to agree that Christian converts should not be subjec to the restraints of local traditions and took some steps, through local directives, to free young Christians, both male and female, from patriarchal domination in marriage decisions.

By 1937 Governor General Marcel de Copper was prepared to accept Christian men as monogamous heads of nuclear families, a step that would have upset the traditional authority of old lineage heads over labor, reproduction, and the accumulation of wealth among younger generations. In the meantime, the French public was becoming aware of the plight of African women through the work of Mlle. Jeanne Dorge, better known as Sister Marie-Andre de Sacre-Coeur, a White Sister who denounced the oppression suffered by African women in their families and marriages. It was not, however, until the Mandel Decree of 15 June 1939 (named for Georges Mandel, the minister of colonies) that French principles of justice were officially and uniformly imposed upon juridical decisions with regard to marriage. The decree forbade child marriages, establishing a minimum age of fourteen for women and sixteen for men, and required the consent of both future spouses to their marriage. Widows about to be inherited by their husbands' kin were also required to give their consent.(26) During debates over the measure, some administrators accused missionaries of encouraging women to leave customary marriages to which they had not consented, while the missionaries countered that they had a responsibility to protect the women who sought refuge at mission stations from oppressive marriages.(27)

Missionaries and administrators were thus directly involved in the daily lives of African subjects through their influence over local courts, and the principles of French civilization were widely interpreted and generously applied, often to the detriment of indigenous practices.(28) When African litigants found it to their advantage to appeal to French principles of justice administrators cooperated with them.(29) However, both administrators and missionaries promoted only the nuclear family and a Christian image of the household, which, regretfully, neglected needs of African women for economic self-determination in their households. Indeed, both administrators and missionaries were largely unaware that an African woman's capacity to earn and control personal wealth was problematic for her husband, who, given the opportunity, rapidly moved to appropriate her authority and resources.(30)

Colonial authorities, however, never forced any of the above decrees upon the millions of African colonial subjects: only Africans who wished to take advantage of the privileged status accorded to French citizens were affected by these measures.(31) Until 1946, in order to gain access to French civil law subjects had to assimilate French civilization through education or military service, show good moral character, accept monogamy and renounce customary law altogether.(32) Not surprisingly, the missionaries were willing to act as intermediaries in dealing with the administration on behalf of Christian converts who wished to change their status from subject to citizen.

In their reaction to missionary activity, Akan women who had been exposed to Western education in French-speaking Africa were probably similar to women in other colonies, who hoped to gain security, wealth, and prestige by affiliating themselves with Christianity. Kristin Mann's study of Christian marriage among elite Yoruba women, for example, shows that mothers encouraged their daughters to marry Christian men and that parents sought out missionary schools to educat their daughters. "Missionaries, teachers, and in some cases parents had socialized" these elite women "to believe in the religious and cultural superiority of foreign marital norms, especially monogamy."(33) As Mann further notes,

Ordinance marriages gave wives a legal right to monogamy Elite women liked this provision for religious reasons. In addition, these women expected enforced monogamy to ensure them and their children exclusive claims to their husbands' resources, and to free them from emotional and sexual competition with other wives. Ordinance marriage also gave women and their children new disinheritance rights. In cases of intestacy, it entitled the women to use for life one-third of theirs husbands' self-acquired property. It entitled ordinance wives' children to the remaining two-thirds of such property. Unless men wrote wills specifying otherwise, Christian marriage effectively disinherited siblings and outside children. Finally, the elite believed that Christian marriage would protect women against divorce, by making unions very difficult to terminate legally.(34)

Unfortunately, although some husbands supported their wives and conformed to th Victorian view of women as sheltered, financially dependent helpmates, others failed to live up to their wives' expectations. In colonial Lagos, as in Abidjan, most elite women ended up disappointed with their new state of economi dependency. In Nigeria, some elite women became advocates of traditional Yoruba marriage, while others sought to escape the yoke of economic dependence through technical training and employment schemes.(35)

When African delegates met with the French at Brazzaville in 1944 to chart post-World War II policies, the issue of women's rights was debated alongside political and economic demands that would shape future relations with the metropole. Many of the African delegates condemned polygyny and child brides, and approved voting rights and access to public service for women. Although citizenship was extended to all inhabitants of associated territories (the Lamine Gueye Law), under Article 80 of the Constitution of the French Union French civil status was not transferred, each territory retaining its own customary laws (statut local) in the private domain. As before, adults could renounce these in favor of French law, but there were no legal changes made in the marital status of women, who remained subordinate to their husbands in both Christian and customary marriages. In short, the reforms resulting from recommendations made at Brazzaville, however wide-reaching, failed in large measure directly to address women's needs.(36)

Meanwhile, missionaries continued to press for change. Monseigneur Joanny Thevenoud, a White Father in Ouagadougou, criticized colonial administrators fo their reluctance to protect African women from abuse. His investigations revealed that thousands of young girls were being exchanged at negotiated prices, with girls being delivered to the family that offered the most. Parents were also being forced, by chiefs and colonial guards, to sell their children i order to pay taxes.(37) The efforts led by missionaries on behalf of African women finally resulted in the passage of the Jacquinot Decree of 1951, which made a definitive assault on the bride-price. The Jacquinot Decree freed all women over twenty-one from obligations to their extended family in their first and any subsequent marriages. There was no longer any requirement to reimburse the bride-price after divorce, and for minors the bride-price was reduced to a limited sum based on the region of residence. Finally, monogamy was instituted as the only form of marriage that could be registered by the state(38)--a practice that continued with the adoption of the Napoleonic code in the years following independence in 1960.

Emerging Female Voices and the Western Family Model

Upon independence, African legislators began to codify family laws. The new laws, however, expressed the will of the most powerful--Western-educated elite men desired to exert authority over the weak: women, children, and the uneducated. They imposed changes in relationships between generations and between genders, and advanced legal codes founded on a French family model. During this period in Cote d'Ivoire, then, the invention of a "legal family" wa more symbolic of the aspirations of male political leaders than indicative of actual Ivoirian family relationships.

The goals set by President Felix Houphouet-Boigny in 1960 were national unity, political stability, and economic prosperity. He imposed a single party, the Parti Democratique de la Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI), and adopted a liberal investment policy. Houphouet further hoped that, in a nation composed of more than sixty different ethnic groups, a unified judicial system would help to accomplish his goals. He selected the Napoleonic code, described by juridical analysts as legislation choc ("shock" law) because of the absence in the Napoleonic texts o any provisions for ethnic pluralism. Houphouet thus continued the pattern of assimilation and unification set by the French.(39)

On 3 October 1963 the first lady, Madame Therese Houphouet-Boigny, founded the Association des Femmes Ivoiriennes (now defunct), of which she was, and remained, honorary president. The organization brought together socially and politically conscious women, mostly of Akan ethnic origin, who were already members of the League of Women for the Defense of the African Family (a Catholi organization) or who had been active in the women's wing of the PDCI during the struggle for independence. Following independence, early supporters of the president--mostly Akan men, the Baule in particular--were rewarded with important positions within the party and in the government.(40) The AFI leadership thus included women active in the administrative and political life of the country, as well as wives, sisters, and daughters of the country's political leadership. They learned to manipulate the political process in the one-party state by organizing around national objectives, engaging strategies familiar to the party, and taking advantage of their relations with powerful leaders.(41)

Many of these AFI members had earlier benefitted from the work of Christian missions, which were highly active among Akan in the southeastern region of Cot d'Ivoire. In this fertile, cash-crop producing region, the missionaries set up schools and taught valuable skills. The Akan men who had attended mission schools became civil servants or worked in European commercial firms.(42) The educated Akan women joined the ranks of women teachers, lawyers, judges, pharmacists, and midwives working outside of the home to cam money for themselves and their families. Their exposure to Western life-styles over a continuous period affected their perceptions of marriage and family, and led them to adopt nuclear family behavior consistent with Western education.

Under the leadership of the first AFI president, Madame Jeanne Gervais, a staunch party activist and educator, women entered the national arena as one of several interest groups incorporated under the umbrella of the PDCI. The AFI attempted to establish communications with Ivoirian women through local committees based in each village, district, and municipality. Mme. Gervais also developed international linkages through encounters sponsored by the United Nations and resolved to make the betterment of the condition of women a nationa priority.

The 1964 Family Laws

Whereas French colonial administrators had officially accepted customary law in the private domain, President Houphouet refused to codify local customs. Instead, he chose to advance the Western vision--the Christian ideal--of a strong, male-dominated nuclear family by imposing a single civil code, passed b the National Assembly on 7 October 1964.(44) The new civil code was intended to serve as the framework within which customary practices would, supposedly, evolve. Whether one judges these eight new laws reforming, innovative, or simpl unrealistic, the fact remains that when Ivoirian men emerged from colonial domination and formulated their image of an egalitarian state, they approved measures that extended their authority over the household and deprived women of financial autonomy.(45) Patriarchal in spirit, the 1964 laws regulated marital obligations, property, divorce, paternity, and inheritance within legally contracted marriages.

The new code was consistent with gains made by missionaries during the colonial period, since it established the primacy of the nuclear family and abolished th bride-price. Inspired by the Western model of family, the Ivoirian state impose the following requirements for contracting a marriage and maintaining a household:


a minimum age of eighteen for women and twenty-one for men,

the consent of each future spouse,

a pledge of fidelity and mutual assistance in the interest of the family,

recognition of the husband as the undisputed head of household,

joint ownership of property as the only property option,

succession procedures whereby female spouses received one half of the property, with the remainder to be distributed to the children, siblings, and/or parents of the deceased, and

recognition of children born out of wedlock.

Divorce or legal separation was authorized by the court only for reasons of adultery, excessive abuse, desertion, or dishonorable conduct, with the innocen party eligible for alimony. Only officially registered marriages could be judge under the new regulations. The reformers insisted that they did not intend to initiate rapid, revolutionary changes in the African family and did not write i sanctions against law enforcers who failed to demand compliance with the new law. They did, however, expect judges to rule in accordance with the law.(46)

In both spirit and application, the 1964 code violated many aspects of the constitution (which accorded equal rights to all citizens, male or female) and ran counter to customary law (which did not prohibit polygyny and did not dissociate women from their kin groups). While in some ways egalitarian, in the final analysis the new code reaffirmed male domination. As some of its authors argued with respect to the law's apparent violation of constitutional provisions, "equal rights do not infer equal powers".(47) As far as women were concerned, the new code produced somewhat uneven results. First, although polygyny was officially rejected, the authors of the code accepted that childre born of extramarital affairs should become legitimate heirs. This was intended to ensure that their fathers, as Christian men in monogamous marriages, could assume the legal responsibilities for these offspring.(48) In order to recogniz these so-called illegitimate children, a husband was required to obtain his wife's legal consent; but if she refused, her decision could be overturned by the court. For the legislators, it was a foregone conclusion that most African men were going to commit adultery, and children fathered out of wedlock were empowered with the right to file paternity suits.(49) In short, the legislators were willing to compromise the interests of a legitimate spouse and the childre born of the marriage in order to allow the husband to meet, legally, his traditional social responsibilities.

Second, the authors eliminated any claims on bride-wealth that derived from extended family relations, whether matrilineal or patrilineal: lineage heads could not, legally, interfere with women in monogamous marriages. By this awarding of juridical supremacy to the nuclear family, however, women were disconnected from the security of their extended families. In order to offset this loss of security, the legislators proposed to transfer women's dependency from their lineages to their husbands. In many ways, this worked to women's advantage. In matters of succession and divorce, for example, spouses could claim one haft of the assets acquired during the marriage. By testament, a maximum of three-fourths of the value of the deceased spouse's half of communit property could pass to persons not cited in the line of succession, which guaranteed that a minimum of one quarter would go to the wife's children. Further, contrary to most traditional practices, the woman being divorced could not be repudiated and sent back to her family. If found innocent of wrongdoing, she could gain custody of children and receive child support and alimony, and the independent status and financial autonomy of a divorced woman were protecte from abuse by her husband and former in-laws. In a 1974 study among the patrilineal Bete of Gagnoa, for example, it was found that women who knew of th laws actually preferred registered marriages, which would give them a share of the deceased husband's inheritance, access to alimony, and child support.(50)

But third, and to the wife's clear disadvantage, the authors gave the husband additional powers over financial matters that no Ivoirian patriarch had ever held before, depriving her of power over personal and reserved wealth. By establishing a single marital regime, the community, the new code gave the head of household the authority to manage all revenues, including salaries, accumulated by either spouse. In addition, the professional and financial activities of wives were regulated, so that a husband could refuse to accept he choice of employment or could withhold authorization for a bank account. He could also demand remittance of her salary directly to himself. Only women traders could manage stocks and cash flows related to their commerce as separat property, without interference. Moreover, the husband could manage, dispose of, or mortgage community property as he wished, although he was not permitted to alienate community property without remuneration or sell his wife's personal property without her permission or, lacking that, a court authorization.(51) At the same time, the woman had to rely on the court to give her permission to manage her share of community property in the event that her husband proved irresponsible. In sum, the authors succeeded in enacting on paper that which centuries of traditional practices and decades of customary law under colonialism had dared not tamper with: a woman's right to authority over the destination of profits derived from her external labor (after household responsibilities had been met) and of benefits accrued from personal wealth, such as land or properties inherited from her family.

Thus, women stood to lose more than they gained. In fact, in his presentation o the proposal in 1964, the minister of justice stated outright that there was to be no equality of the sexes where family was concerned. The proceedings of the debates in the National Assembly, moreover, demonstrate that no disagreements with the proposed laws were given any serious consideration. Although several deputies attempted to raise questions pertaining to the plurality of marriage customs in the country and criticized the failure of the proposals to take loca practices into account, the president of the National Assembly quickly closed the debate, forced a voice vote, and pounded the gavel in acceptance of the proposals.(52)

In voicing their approval, the deputies accepted the president's Western-based model of the nuclear family and tacitly confirmed his notion (however illusory) of the role it might play in moving Cote d'Ivoire toward a Western model of development. After all, they were the president's hand-picked body of legislators, and their approval of the new family code reassured him of their loyalty and unswerving support for the party line--in return for political rewards, of course. More important, however, they protected their status as heads of household and reinforced the superiority of men over women.

Surviving the Western Model

The 1964 code, it seems, reflected transformations that were already underway i Ivoirian urban life. As Abdou Toure notes, Ivoirian attitudes toward marriage and family had been substantially influenced by Western education, the church, and, more recently, the media, especially the cinema. Ivoirian men used portion of their incomes to entertain concubines, to finance extravagant ceremonies (weddings, baptisms, funerals), and to purchase imported consumer items.(53) Ivoirian women elites were concerned by the alienation of their husbands' earnings to concubines.

Although men's extramarital relations are not uncommon in monogamous societies, they were apparently increasing at exponential rates among monogamous couples i Abidjan, and, as Toure further noted, the divorce rate had increased dramatically, to the point where many young men and women were unwilling to marry. He attributed the rising divorce rates to the negative impact caused by systematic adoption of Western marriage and family practices. He surmised as well that the assimilation of Western marriage practices was incomplete and tha lineage relations continued to be a persistent factor in monogamous marriages, especially among the Akan.(54) Therefore, he concluded, it was not monogamy in and of itself that caused marriages to fail; rather, the couple's isolation fro their extended families was at the root of most conflicts in marriages.

Dissatisfaction with the 1964 code, it turned out, was related not only to gender but also to ethnicity and class. The matrilineal Akan and Western-educated elites were most accustomed to engaging in legal marriage contracts and thus were most likely to be affected by the new code. As Toure pointed out, "In practice, the law confirms practices already being honored among the Western educated elites; and it does not seem, in spite of the interest they have, to worry or upset the lower classes which are generally ver adept and know perfectly well how to play both sides, that is, both customary laws and 'modern' laws".(55) Toure confirms what the AFI perceived as a need fo a more flexible, and hence more viable, code that would accommodate lineage relations and mediate the various ethnically based expectations for marriage in the light of new social realities, such as increased wealth and financial opportunities, especially in urban areas.

A decade later after the passage of the code, the AFI's contestation of the 196 laws had earned it the sobriquet of Association des Femmes Infideles (Unfaithfu Wives Association) from men who resented women's efforts to assert and protect their economic autonomy.(56) Amidst a media storm of rumors and mocking criticism (which I witnessed), AFI women were accused of wanting to reinstate polygyny in the civil code. To end these verbal assaults, Mine. Gervais, in an interview with Fraternite Matin on 4 May 1975, summed up the AFI's official position on monogamy, stating that the 1964 family code was

a true revolution carried out by the Ivoirian people in the interest of the Nation and of women's emancipation. . . . There was never any question (of reinstating polygyny), neither today, nor tomorrow, nor the day after tomorrow. The AFI does not intend to reverse the law on the suppression of polygyny. We confirm that we would never think of reestablishing it.(57)

Mme. Gervais' comments were "politically correct" in that they supported the national party line (although it was amply evident that the 1964 laws had not revolutionized much of anything). By asserting the AFI's determination to retai monogamy, moreover, she also seemed to affirm the general trend toward the Western model that had begun under colonialism. But if the AFI did not seek a return to polygyny, the fact remained that several features of the postindependence laws were indeed unacceptable to the organization's members--inasmuch as husbands gained authority over women's customary rights in personal property. The AFI thus sought primarily to reinstate women's traditional financial autonomy and self-determination in marriage within the newly adopted legal framework. Ultimately, the association wished to strengthen the marital security provisions of the 1964 laws by doing away with the restrictions on women's management of their acquired and inherited property--familiar rights that these women were naturally not eager to lose.

The women who used the AFI as a vehicle to push for legislative reform represented an elite distinguished by their Akan ethnicity and urbanization,(58 and by their substantial Western education, Catholic religion, considerable wealth, and influential political relationships, all of which set them apart from other women in the country. Although the Western-educated Akan women elite of the AFI may have been the most distressed by the 1964 family laws, however, they were not the only women affected by the loss of economic independence. Indeed, the complaints of the AFI echoed those of urban women from other classe and ethnic backgrounds? Dei found that women without power generally rallied around the influential women elites who were members of the AFI in order to achieve their own goals. Moreover, as Vidal (60) has demonstrated, most urban women in the lower classes, Akan and other, were distraught by their husbands' economic insecurity and its effect on their marriages, as these women were more vulnerable to poverty if husbands were unskilled, unemployed, or absent. To their dismay, urban women also discovered that, while the 1964 laws provided some limited protection in case of their husbands' death or abandonment, the laws were useless if husbands (who could be vulnerable in the workplace and unfaithful in marriage) were free to dispose of their earnings without their consent.

Vidal also found that men in urban areas married women to obtain economic advantages: men wanted women who would bear children and maintain clean, healthy, economical households in exchange for lodging, a daily contribution toward food, and an occasional gift of clothes, soaps, or jewelry. Their expectations were essentially derived from a rural image of the family, in whic women contributed to household prosperity by laboring on family farms and a husband's appropriation of profits went unquestioned. In the urban context, men continued to expect their wives to contribute, but in the absence of family farms they expected their wives to give them money earned through nonhousehold labor.

With increasing levels of urbanization, women indeed sought participation in th salaried work force, even though as of 1980 only 13 percent of the salaried wor force was female. If women did not have access to skilled employment, they attempted to earn money through agriculture--by cultivating land in their traditional village farms or rural property they had acquired outside the city--or by trade in foodstuffs, crafts, and textiles. Moreover, female enrollment in schools was rising, women accounting for over 40 percent of those enrolled in primary schools in 1980. As a result, young girls were increasingly being exposed to Western life-styles that were more costly to maintain. However as Vidal reports, urban women did not wish to duplicate rural, patriarchal dominance, and refused to give their earnings to husbands, resulting in a struggle for power between the sexes.(61) Moreover, the women did not want thei earnings to be spent on concubines, given to in-laws, or invested in projects they could not control. Most Ivoirian women felt that their living conditions could have improved if they were economically independent from husbands.(62) In the words of one informant, although women might be overworked, any employment outside the household was far more dependable than a husband: "Women, even if they must suffer, prefer their jobs. And, like they say here, your job is your father, your mother,your husband. Once, you have a job, your life is secure. Don't count on a man!"(63)

Salaried women (and men) were extensively affected by the family laws, since they were most likely to apply for social security benefits that required proof of legal marriage. (In 1978 over 30 percent of working men and about 15 percent of working women were salaried.) The amount of family allocations and tax exemptions was determined by information recorded in the Family Record Booklet that a couple acquired from an official agent of the state on the day of their marriage ceremony. But legal marriages usually occurred only between practicing Christians, or when at least one of the spouses was a salaried employee eligibl for benefits.(64) Urban economic demands also seemed to outweigh the importance of matrilineal or patrilineal descent systems for lower-class women.

But if the AFI concern over the 1964 laws was shared by other women, it is also true that Mme. Gervais and her acolytes exploited the general dissatisfaction o lower-class women to build a stronger case for themselves at the national level As we have noted, few women shared the privileged social status of AFl members as women professionals, civil servants, Christians, and wealthy socialites. AFI women wished to maintain their traditional statuses within their lineages and contract legal marriages without risk to their personal and inherited wealth. A this point in Cote d'Ivoire's political history, the AFI women had the personal and political connections necessary to fulfil their aspirations, whereas lower-class women did not.

Financial Autonomy and the Reforms of 1983

By the time of the United Nations declaration of the Decade for Women in 1976, President Houphouet was making political currency from the women's movement, having created the Ministere de la Condition Feminine et de la Promotion de la Femme and declared a Women's Year in 1975. Mme. Gervais, now minister of this department, immediately moved to gain legitimacy for the Women's Ministry by appointing a commission to carry out a national survey on women. The commission reported on three major concerns: juridical equality, education, and employment

For Mme. Gervais and her educated Akan counterparts, the main preoccupation was the reform of "archaic" provisions in the 1964 civil code that deprived women o control over the product of their labor. Using a form of rhetoric designed to legitimize demands, she complained that the laws prevented women from fully participating in national development. It was the first time in the nation's history that a national commission had been charged with the task of finding ou how women perceived family laws.(65)

The commission organized in 1983 to review and amend the 1964 family laws continued to endorse the primacy of the nuclear family, the succession and inheritance provisions, and the idea of the marital community, but in place of some of the more troublesome provisions it proposed:

limitations on the husband's authority,

recognition of women's economic autonomy,

collaboration on the daily operation of the household, and

remuneration for housework (Commission Report, Ministere de la Condition Feminine et de la Promotion de la Femme).

The Women's Ministry lobbied successfully for most of the commission's suggestions. It gained support from the Ministry of Justice to develop proposal for new laws on everything except monetary compensation for housework, which th ministry defined as an "unremunerated obligation." The proposed emendations wer then submitted to the National Assembly for approval.

My conversations with AFI members in 1987 confirmed that they fully supported Mine. Gervais' efforts and her leadership. Each woman felt that the 1983 code was more realistic and would provide them with more protection.(66) The women stated that they did not need to resort to marches or public rallies as their mothers had during the anticolonial struggle (at Bassam, for example). Now thes women used their influence in their households, in their lineages, and within the PDCI to press for change. The AFI women chose to work behind the scenes to convince the parry leadership (which included their fathers, brothers, uncles, husbands, and consorts) of the need to recognize officially what they all knew about their matrilineal heritage and women's financial autonomy. The AFI women' influence with the PDCI leadership made passage of the emendations virtually a certainty.

The National Assembly did indeed approve the proposed laws, but not without vehement opposition from many deputies, especially those representing regions where customary marriages and patrilineal descent were in vogue. These legislators insisted that deviation from "tradition" was the cause of social ills such as delinquency, children born out of wedlock, and teenage pregnancy. They supported polygyny and rejected legalization of women's financial autonomy Defending traditional patriarchal claims over women, Deputy Timite Inza, a Northern Mande from Mankono, said that the law violated the "freedom of consciousness" of every citizen.(67)

The deputies who objected could perhaps take some small consolation in the fact that the 1983 emendations to the civil code preserved the spirit of the 1964 laws by maintaining the nuclear family unit as the only one recognized by the state, by continuing the protection of married women, and by providing for children of extramarital liaisons.(68) As for women's autonomy, however, the la now offered two options within the "community regime": community property or separation of assets. Even under the first, less radical, option, women could

exercise their traditional financial autonomy,

manage bank accounts in their own names,

exercise the profession of their choice,

earn, collect, and freely dispose of self-generated income after meeting household expenses, and

manage personal property.

Personal property was defined as consisting of any possessions accumulated before marriage, as well as possessions acquired after marriage in the form of inheritance or gifts and profits from the sale or exchange of personal property along with clothing, professional equipment, and payments derived from settlements, loans, or pensions.

The restoration of these individual rights was thus clearly an important victor for women, although the law did demand that they contribute to the growth of th household by attaching their reserved property--defined as salaries, savings, o profits from personal wealth, in cash or on deposit (but not invested)--to the community. Even so, the husband's authority over community assets was severely curtailed. He was required to procure his spouse's permission to give away, sell, or mortgage any portion of community property. Married women could appeal to the courts to nullify agreements made without their prior knowledge. The law also protected a wife's personal and reserved property from losses occurring as a consequence of the husband's indebtedness, whether contracted for personal or for community benefit.(69)

The separation of assets option went even further, giving women full financial autonomy. Each spouse was responsible for the administration of his or her own debts and reserved and personal property, whether acquired before or during the marriage. Any property for which ownership could not be established was said to belong to each spouse in equal portions. The deceased spouse's inheritance was not shared in this case, but was divided among the children and those cited in the line of succession.

In essence, the 1983 laws recognized the legal maturity and equality of women i the modern nation-state. That the legislation was significant, particularly for Akan women, was underlined by Mine. Jacqueline Oble in the evaluation undertake by the Chambre de Notaires, an association of lawyers specializing in corporate and property law. Although her eider female matrikin might have preferred to retain the matrilineal control of customary law, they would be comfortable enough with the provisions of the community property option to find it an acceptable compromise for the next generation. Mine. Oble expressed the relief shown by her female Akan elders when she paraphrased what one of them might hav said about the new law:

My daughter, if the law today recognizes a wife's authority and treats her equally with her husband, in spite of a few remaining vestiges of marital dominance, I accept that you live under the community property option with your husband?

Thus, Mme. Gervais and her AFI supporters were not ultimately seeking a full return to traditional marriage practices or customary law. Instead, they demanded a form of legal pluralism that would allow them to emulate Western marriage relationships and yet retain their traditional status as managers of personal income and recipients of matrilineal inheritance and gifts. The 1983 emendations restored women's autonomy within a legally defined conception of family.

Shortly after the new code was approved, I attended five weddings, from which i became clear that the public was rapidly becoming knowledgeable about the meaning of the changes. Moreover, the community property option appeared to enjoy the most support; during a marriage ceremony at city hall, for example, the announcement that the couple had chosen this option was greeted with effusive applause. Given that the separation of assets is in many ways more in keeping with traditional matrilineal (and polygynous) practices, this preferenc attests to the shift in attitudes toward marriage that Western-style monogamy has brought about: Rather than amounting to a cohabitation contract, the marriage ritual should confirm the union of a couple, both spiritually and economically.


Under the influence of missionaries, colonial administrators, and other interes groups, for better or worse, colonial policies directly affected the status of women. In almost all cases, however, these policies were undertaken without consideration for the wishes of Africen women (or men). Moreover, in the postindependence period, African men in control of new governments legislated i their own interest.

Nationalists, seeking the political independence of their countries, sought the support of women, and women assumed--wrongly, if understandably--that once colonial oppressors were evicted, independence would bring about an improvement in their lot. But, once again, in the postindependence period African women wer not consulted about policies that were allegedly designed to better their circumstances but in fact failed to take into account the goals women sought fo themselves and for their families. As development specialists have frequently pointed out, the failure to integrate women's needs has often resulted in disastrous gaps in state-directed economic planning or educational programs.(71 Especially now that there is a growing consensus that the postcolonial politica systems of African societies (many of which came under the control of the military) have not generally improved people's lives, attention must be paid to the real impact of these policies on African women and families.

The lofty ideals of equality among the citizenry, as expressed in the constitutions of independent states, are not consistent with legal codes that deny women full expression of their individual status. Under the guise of protection, family codes reinforced patriarchal authority over women and children, and, in some cases, left women with less power than they had exercise under customary law with regard to their property rights and traditional economic responsibilities. What became clear, after the first flush of independence, was that African women increasingly attempted to effect changes i the family laws of their respective societies. This was especially true of urba elite women, for whom new civil codes--although judged progressive by men--clearly represented their forfeiture of self-determination and financial autonomy.

The example of political action on the part of elite Ivoirian women sheds light on the nature of political discourse and political action in a one-party state, where a behind-the-scenes style of maneuvering was the most effective in promoting specific interests, as it carefully allowed for the public preservation of a concern for the general interest and professed plans for national development. In order to accomplish their goal, the women of the AFI took their place alongside other political interest groups in the one-party state, competing for the president's favor within the context of his declared economic policies. Although this group has been criticized for their inability to represent the broader interests of women nationally, their political effectiveness was confirmed by women outside this elite circle who sought their counsel and their leadership.

The will of a small group of educated Akan women professionals to secure a number of amendments to the first postindependence civil code resulted in the creation of a new image of the Ivoirian family for the nation at large. As wome become better educated, engage in employment in the formal sector, and marry me who wish to benefit from social programs that require legal marriage, they will become increasingly aware of and seek to benefit from the provisions of the new law. We can expect them to respond to the new code in ways similar to their predecessors--who found ways to escape obligatory marriages once they learned through native tribunals of the changes wrought by colonial administrators.

It is unclear, however, how changes in the political process will affect future political activity among this particular group of educated women elites, whose ability to effect change depended upon their personal contacts and cultural affinity to the president who had imposed the 1983 emendations on the legislature. In 1991, in response to the economic crises caused by the worldwid recession of the 1980s, Houphouet permitted a return to political pluralism in an effort to appease disgruntled constituencies for whom the regime had lost legitimacy. Cote d'Ivoire is now a multiparty democracy, and new, politically active women's groups are emerging whose leaders are not culturally based or politically dependent upon the nation's leadership.

These new Ivoirian women activists, who emerged onto the stage of political activism during the mass marches and demonstrations that led to the return to a multiparty system on 30 April 1991, do not have the elite social status of the AFI women and are characterized by their appeal to a multiethnic, grass-roots constituency. For example, the Organisation des Femmes du Front Populaire Ivoirien--the women's wing of the Front Populaire Ivorien, the dominant opposition party--collaborated with the Mouvement Ivoirien des Femmes Democrates, which is open to women of any party affiliation, to organize marche to protest against government actions such as the violent military assaults on university students.(72) It seems likely, then, that the transformation of the political system will not only make top-down decisions less tolerable but will also open the way for new political voices struggling to effect reforms to be heard. Such changes will inevitably bring to light new strategies on the part o women engaged in political activism.

Given that approximately half of the electorate is female, the PDCI--which is anxious to maintain its hegemony--appears to have recognized the importance of incorporating women into the political process, as is evident from the appointment of women to two of the ten commission chairs at the PDCI Ninth Congress in October 1990 and to several seats in the Central Committee and Political Bureau. At the national level, the prime minister had appointed three women among the twenty ministers in his first government. Further, the PDCI has begun a grass-roots remobilization of women in a new organization, the Union de Femmes Ivoiriennes.(73)

Women who mobilize for political ends during this new phase of political expression will probably be more assertive, and consequently more successful, i exercising their constitutional rights as equal citizens alongside their men. More research is needed, however, to determine how Ivoirian women can, under these changed circumstances, best negotiate their status in society, continue t subvert their traditional subordination to men, and insert their values into th legal definition of the African family.

Department of History Charlottesville, VA 22903


Earlier drafts of this article were presented at the Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association (1987), the Callaloo Seminar at the University of Virginia (1989), and the Ralph Bunche Institute at the City University of New York (1990). The author is grateful for the encouragement received on these occasions, and would like to thank, in particular, Elliott P. Skinner, Gwendoly Mikell, and Joseph Miller for their helpful comments.

1. Marlene Mackie, "Sexism in Sociological Research," in Winfred Tomm and Gordo Hamilton, eds., Gender Bias in Scholarship: The Pervasive Prejudice (Waterloo, Ontario, 1988), pp. 1-24; Winfred Tomm, The Effects of Feminist Approaches on Research Methodologies (Waterloo, Ontario, 1989); Mary Margaret Fonow and Judit A. Cook, eds. Beyond Methodology:Feminist Scholarship as Lived Research (Bloomington, 1991). Women's influence on social change during the preindependence period in Cote d'Ivoire and$in the modern nation-states of Africa is gradually gaining attention. Cora Presley, Kikuyu Women, the "Mau" Rebellion, and Social Change in Kenya (Boulder, CO, 1991); Bolanle Awe et al., eds. Women, Family, State, and Economy in Africa: Signs 16 n4 (special issue, 1991); Jane Parapart and Kathleen Staudt, eds. Women and the State in Africa (Boulder, CO, 1989); Patricia Romero, Life Histories of African Women (London, 1988); Henriette Diabate, La marche des femmes sur Grand Bassam (Abidjan, 1975) but the precise nature of this influence--the inner workings of women's participation in social change--has yet to be adequately examained.

2. Aristide Zolberg, One-Party Government in the Ivory Coast (Princeton, 1969).

3. Diabete, La marche des femmes sur Grand Bassam, p. 55.

From Diabate's study of the events at Bassam, we also learn that the women undressed, sang, and danced (a familiar form of local protest) in their effort to force the colonial administrators to free the prisoners. The protest, which took place during the week of 21 December 1949, became known as la bataille des jets d'eau after the firehoses used to disperse the women.

4. Michael Cohen, Urban Policy and Political Conflict in Africa (Chicago, 1974)

5. J.C. Smith and David N. Weisstub, The Western Idea of Law (Toronto, 1983).

6. Martin Chanock, Law, Custom, and Social Order (Cambridge, 1985 ), p. 5.

7. Margaret Schuler, Empowerment and the Law (Washington, D.C., 1986); Nadine Taub and Elizabeth Schneider, "Perspectives on Women's Subordination and the Role of Law." In David Kairys, ed., The Politics of Law: A Progressive Critique (New York, 1982); Sandra Burman and Barbara Harrell-Bond, eds. The Imposition o Law (New York, 1979); Andre Tunc, Les aspects juridiques du developpment economique (Paris, 1966).

8. Sally Merry, "Legal Pluralism." Law and Society 20 no. 5 (Madison, 1988); Karen Mingst, "Judical Systems of Sub-Saharan Africa: An Analysis of Neglect" African Studies Review 31 no. 1 (1988): 135-47; Sally Falk Moore, Law as Proces (London, 1978).

9. Margaret Hay and Marcia Wright, African Women and the Law: Historical Perspectives (Boston, 1982).

10. Kathleen Staudt, "Stratification: Implications for Women's Politics." in Women and Class, ed. Claire Robertson and Iris Berger (New York and London, 1986).

11. Staudt, "Stratification," p. 207.

12. Robert Fatton, "Gender, Class, and State in Africa." in Jane Parapart and Kathleen Staudt, eds., Women and the States in Africa (Boulder, CO, 1989) p. 49

13. Staudt, "Stratification," p. 211.

14. George Murdock, Africa. Its Peoples, and Their Culture History (New York, 1959), p. 84.

15. Akan-speakers in Cote d'Ivoire comprise many ethnic groups, including the Baule, Agni, Nzima, Ehotile, Abure, Abron, Abidji, Adjukru, Ebrie, Attie, Abbe, Alladian, and Avikam. All, however, recognize their cultural affinity and generally refer to themselves as Akan. As Claude Perrot, Its Anyi-Ndenye et le pouvoir aux 18eme et 19eme siecles (Abidjan, 1991); Timothy Weiskei, French Colonial Rule and the Baule Peoples: Resistance and Collaboration, 1889-1911 (Oxford, 1980); Gabriel Kouadio, Dan le pays Baoule, monographic de la commune de Tomidi: Origines et histoire (Abidjan, 1983) have shown, these groups were formed by successive waves of migration from Ghana, the Akan heartland.

16. Mary Douglas, "Is Matriliny Doomed in Africa?" in Mary Douglas and Phyllis Kaberry, eds., Man in Africa (London, 1969) pp. 121-25; Josephine Dikeble and M Hiba "La femme dans la vie politique traditionnelle des societes aux etats du centre, de l'est et du sud-est de la Cote d'Ivoire." In Societe Africaine de Culture, La Civilisation de la femme dans la tradition Africaine (Colloquium, Abidian) (Paris, 1972), pp. 377-88.

17. Marie-Andre du Sacre-Coeur, La Femme noire en Afrique occidentale (Paris, 1939).

On the basis of her experiences in the western Sudan, Sister Marie-Andre du Sacre Coeur felt that Muslim wives, whose value was determined solely by the bride-price, suffered more than non-Muslim wives in traditional communities--perhaps not surprisingly, given her Catholic affiliation. See also Henriette Celarie, Nos freres noires (Paris, 1932).

18. Remi Clignet, Many Wives, Many Powers (Evanston, IL, 1970), p. 46.

19. Gwendolyn Mikell, Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana (New York, 1989), pp. 107-34.

20. Claire Robertson, Sharing the Same Bowl: Socioeconomic History of Women and Class in Accra, Ghana (Bloomington, 1984), p. 51.

21. Cardinal Lavigerie, founder of the Catholic White Fathers, mobilized French Catholics behind the antislavery crusade and encouraged French politicians to support the conquest of Africa for humanitarian ends. With the signing of the Brussels Act of 1890, an international agreement to end slave-raiding and trading, French missionaries enjoined colonial powers to provide a legal framework for all changes in African societies; see Joseph-Roger de Benoist, Eglise et pouvoir colonial au Soudan Francais (Paris 1987). French Catholic missions included La Congregation des Peres du Saint-Esprit, La Societe des Peres Blancs, La Societe des Missionaires d'Afrique, and La Congregation des Soeurs Missionaires de Notre-Dame d'Afrique.

22. Quoted in Benoist, Eglise et pouvoir, p. 34, my translation.

23. In somewhat more straightforward fashion, the Scottish Plymouth Brethren assisted in the resettlement of freed slaves at mission stations, where they offered protection from reenslavement in return for conversion. Marcia Wright's tale of the tribulations of Bwanika, a freed slave who had lived in the border region between the Congo Free State and northeastern Rhodesia at the turn of th century, reveals that "widows and isolated women became the preponderant elemen in the early Christian church"; see Marcia Wright, "Bwanika: Consciousness and Protest among Slave Women in Central Africa, 1886-1911," in Women and Slavery i Africa, ed. Claire C. Robertson and Martin A. Klein (Madison, 1983), pp. 247-67

Bwanika purchased her freedom from her husband, after which he converted and they lived harmoniously in a monogamous Christian marriage. She became a medica practitioner who actively engaged in evangelization in villages situated near the Luapula River.

24. Suzanne Miers and Richard Roberts, The End of Slavery in Africa (Madison, 1988), p. 39; Martin Klein, "Women in Slavery in the Western Sudan," in Claire Robertson and Martin Klein, eds. Women and Slavery in Africa (Madison, 1983), pp. 68-69; Denise Bouche, Les villages de liberte en afrique noire (Paris, 1968).

25. Benoist, Eglise et pouvoir pp. 343-37 and Elliott Skinner, African Urban Life: The Transformation of Ouagadougou (Princeton, 1974), pp. 318-33.

26. Benoist, Eglise et pouvoir, pp. 285-99; Louis Rolland and Pierre Lampue, Droit d'Outre-Mer (Paris, 1959), p. 202.

27. Benoist, Eglise et pouvoir, pp. 292-94.

28. Indeed, in practical terms, African practices and preferences were, during the colonial period, all too apt to be overruled, depending on how colonial administrators defined problems and whether missionaries felt that their participation would bring results for their evangelical missions. Moreover, if relations between missionaries and colonial administrators could at times be tense, the two were also willing to cooperate in order to achieve common ends. Thus, for example, during the 1920s and 1930s colonial concerns about populatio decline, low birthrates, and infertility opened the way for Belgian women and Catholic missionaries to transform reproductive behavior and infant feeding practices in the Copperbelt of the Belgian Congo. Likewise, when administrators sought to expand the labor force, missionaries discouraged extended periods of breast feeding and postpartum sexual abstinence; see Nancy Rose Hunt, "'Le Bebe en Brousse': European Women, African Birth Spacing and Colonial Intervention in Breast Feeding in the Belgian Congo." International Journal of African Historical Studies 23 no. 3 (1988): 406-7. Along much the same lines, British administrators in Uganda, concerned by the impact of sexually transmitted diseases on the labor force, enlisted the assistance of missionary doctors of the Christian Missionary Society, who did not hesitate to link venereal disease with immorality. "The administration allowed the missionaries to take the lead in the new campaign, and in paying for the missionary-administered social purit campaign and maternal health programs, it provided missionaries a highly visibl platform from which to speak;" see Carol Summers, "Intimate Colonialism: The Imperial Production of Reproduction in Uganda, 1907-1925," Signs 16 no. 4 (1991): 796. This major public health issue was treated as a moral dilemma by the Maternity Training School, founded in 1918, which set about "reshaping" the African family in the image of the Christian ideal.

29. Francis Snyder, "Colonialism and Legal Form: The Creation of 'Customary Law in Senegal," in Colin Sumner, ed., Crime, Justice, and Understanding (London, 1982), pp. 90-121.

30. Claudine Vidal, "Guerres des sexes a Abidjan: Masculin, Feminin, CFA." Cahiers d'Etudes Africaines 32 (1977): 121-54; Desire Vangah, "Le statut de la femme mariee dans le nouveau droit de la famille en Cote d'Ivoire." Revue Juridique et Politique: Independence et Cooperation no. 21 (1967): 103.

31. Initially, French "assimilation" policy granted to the original inhabitants of the four communes of Senegal the same rights as citizens of the metropole. A later policy of "association" stipulated, however, that conquered peoples of th empire were not automatically citizens, but subjects associated with France, wh conserved their customary legal status, see Michael Crowder, Senegal: A Study o
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Title Annotation:Ivory Coast
Author:Toungara, Jeanne Maddox
Publication:Journal of Social History
Date:Sep 22, 1994
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