n African Human Rights Law Journal - Marriage under African customary law in the face of the Bill of Rights and international human rights standards in Malawi

Volume 10, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



Contracting a marriage under African customary law in Malawi poses difficulties and challenges in the light of the Bill of Rights and international human rights standards. There are bound to be conflicts which, seen from a human rights perspective, amount to violations of women's human rights. The article explores the nature of the conflict between human rights and a plethora of principles, rules and practices pertaining to marriage under African customary law in Malawi. The article also shows strong support from both men and women for cultural practices that conflict with women's human rights. It is therefore argued that efforts to eradicate these cultural practices, however well-intended, must be undertaken with a very high level of cultural sensitivity. It is suggested that, instead of a formal approach to the realisation of human rights, a substantive approach which is inclusive of the reasons behind the support for cultural beliefs and values, be adopted in order to address those aspects of a particular cultural practice that violate human rights.

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