Whether forced marriages are practised, particularly among members of the Teke ethnic group; if so, protection offered by the state (October 2005) [COG100657.FE]

A researcher from the Union for Study and Research on Population and Development (Union pour l'étude et la recherche sur la population et le développement, UERPOD), a Congolese non-governmental organization in Brazzaville, provided the following information during a 20 October 2005 telephone interview.

Early and [translation] "arranged" marriages are widely practised by many ethnic groups in the Republic of Congo (UERPOD 20 Oct. 2005). In most cases, particularly in rural areas, the parents decide on the marriage without consulting the future bride (ibid.). In some ethnic groups, such as the Teke, whose traditions are particularly [translation] "deep-rooted," marital decisions are sometimes taken upon a girl's birth (ibid.).

According to the UERPOD researcher, a number of parents, through such arranged marriages, seek to obtain the highest possible dowry in exchange for their daughter, with complete disregard for the age of the future husband, who is often much older and, in most cases, already married, as polygyny is legal in the Republic of Congo (ibid.; see also Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

In a 2005 article on the causes, consequences and outcome of girls' dropping out of school in Brazzaville, a Congolese researcher stated that [translation] "girls experience many gender-related pressures from family and from society: marriage and procreation are the primary aims families set for their daughters" (Planeteafrique.com 5 Aug. 2005, Sec. 1.1). The author of the article listed early marriages and pregnancies among the reasons for which girls in Brazzaville drop out of school (ibid., Sec. 2.1.1.2).

The UERPOD researcher explained that early and arranged marriages are part of a cultural background steeped in [translation] "weighty" traditions, which makes it difficult for a girl to refuse a marriage without risking rejection from members of her community, let alone her own parents (20 Oct. 2005). The researcher went on to say that government authorities are hesitant to intervene in so-called traditional matters (UERPOD 20 Oct. 2005). According to the same source, in the Congo, and particularly in rural areas, it is [translation] "inconceivable" that a girl would dare take her parents to court (ibid.).

In its position statement on women's rights in Congo-Brazzaville, published on 17 February 2004, the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights (Observatoire congolais des droits de l'homme, OCDH), affiliated with the International Federation for Human Rights (Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme, FIDH), indicated that besides the violence they experience, [translation] "women further encounter difficulties accessing legal services." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004 indicated that Congolese "[m]arriage and family laws overtly discriminate against women" (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5)

At a civil society forum that took place in Ouagadougou in October 2004, the Republic of Congo was singled out as one of the countries in which [translation] "forced and early marriages are practised" and whose [translation] "civil codes provide for women to be exchanged for dowries upon their marriage" (Sidwaya 22 Oct. 2004; FIDH 21 Oct. 2004), thus serving only to subjugate women (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References


Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. "Congo-Brazzaville." United States Department of State. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41598.htm [Accessed 20 Oct. 2005]

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). 21 October 2004. "'Question du genre...': Intervention au Forum de la Société civile précédant le 10e sommet de Ouagadougou octobre 2004." http://www.fidh.org/article.php3?id_article=1996 [Accessed 20 Oct. 2005]

Observatoire congolais des droits de l'homme (OCDH). 17 February 2004. "Note de position sur les droits de la femme au Congo Brazzaville." http://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/cg_women2004f.pdf [Accessed 20 Oct. 2005]

Planeteafrique.com. 5 August 2005. Constance Mathurine Mafoukila. "'La déscolarisation des filles à Brazzaville, causes, conséquences et perspectives,' un article de Constance Mathurine Mafoukila" http://www.planeteafrique.com/lacollecte/news_print.asp?pcmd=articleprint&articleid=283 [Accessed 21 Oct. 2005]

Sidwaya [Ouagadougou]. 22 October 2004. Victorien A. Sawadogo. "Forum de la société civile: L'ingérence humanitaire lorsque la sécurité des personnes n'est plus assurée." (Lefaso.net) http://www.lefaso.net/article.php3?id_article=4705 [Accessed 20 Oct. 2005]

Union pour l'étude et la recherche sur la population et le développement (UERPOD). 20 October 2005. Telephone interview with a researcher.

Additional Sources Consulted


Internet sites, including: AllAfrica, Amnesty International, Dépêches de Brazzaville, ECOI.net., Famafrique, Human Rights Watch, Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Norwegian Council for Africa, UNICEF, UNIFEM, United States Department of State, Women Living Under Muslim Laws.