Togo: Forced marriage, particularly in Lomé, including its prevalence, the consequences of a refusal, and the treatment by society and the government of women who refuse a forced marriage; state protection and services (2010-February 2013) [TGO104316.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Prevalence and Cultural Context of Early and Forced Marriages

According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), conducted in 2010 by Togo's General Directorate of Statistics and National Accounts (Direction générale de la statistique et de la comptabilité nationale), with financial and technical assistance from UNICEF and the United Nations (UN) Development Programme:

[translation]

[s]even percent of women aged 15 to 49 were married or in a common-law or non-marital relationship by the age of 15, while 29 percent of women aged 20 to 49 were married or in a common-law or non-martial relationship by the age of 18. (Togo Mar. 2012, Sect. 11.5)

A demographic survey conducted by Togo's General Directorate of Statistics (Direction de la statistique) showed that in 1998, one in two women aged 25 to 49 were married or in a common-law or non-marital relationship by the age of 18.8 years, and one in ten women were married or in a common-law or non-marital union by the age of 15 (Togo Apr. 1999, Sect. 5.3.1).

According to the MICS survey conducted by the government of Togo in 2010, the rates of marriage before the ages of 15 and 18 years are higher in rural areas than in urban areas, and the rate of early marriage is even higher in the Kara region, in northern Togo (Togo Mar. 2012, Sect 11.5). In its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011, the United States (US) Department of State reports that early marriage exists in the northern part of the country (US 24 May 2012, 18). In addition, in correspondence sent to the Research Directorate on 13 March 2013, a representative of Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), a pan-African NGO network founded in 1990 (WiLDAF Jan. 2013), explained that in Togo, the practice of forced marriage is most prevalent in the northern part of the country, as well as in the Vogan region in the southern part of the country (ibid. 12 Mar. 2013).

The WiLDAF representative stated that [translation] "forced marriage is the result of a lengthy process between families, sometimes taking several years before one is concluded," and that religious tradition and the dowry are determining factors (ibid.). She also stated that [translation] "in Muslim communities and villages, girls can be given in marriage at the age of 12 to men who are sometimes four times older than they are," and that the guarantee of virginity can also be a factor in the parents' decision to involve their daughters in an early marriage (ibid.).

In an interview with the online newspaper Ici Lomé, the President of the Foundation for Assistance to Widows and Orphans (Fondation pour l'Aide aux Veuves et Orphelins, FONDAVO), an NGO that works with widows in Togo, said that many widows in Togo [translation] "suffer as a result of" levirate and forced and early marriages (Ici Lomé 23 June 2012). Another article published in Ici Lomé describes the practice of [translation] "marriage by barter," in which "one of the husband's younger sisters marries a brother of the married woman," and which takes place in villages in the Savanes region (ibid. 1 July 2012). The information from Ici Lomé could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. Legislation

Law No. 2007-005 of 10 January 2007 on Reproductive Health (Loi n° 2007-005 du 10 janvier 2007 sur la santé de la reproduction) establishes the following: [translation] "No woman, for reasons related to sexuality and reproduction, shall be subjected to forced and/or early marriage" (Togo 2007b, Art. 11). Under Law No. 2007-017 of 6 July 2007 constituting the Children's Code (Loi n° 2007-017 du 6 juillet 2007 portant code de l'enfant), [translation] "child marriage is prohibited. The age of marriage is eighteen (18) years of age" (ibid. 2007a, Art. 267). The Children's Code also provides that children 16 years of age may marry (ibid.), but only under certain conditions, including the condition that [translation] "each of the future spouses, even if the spouse is sixteen (16) years old, must personally consent to the marriage" (ibid., Art. 269). The Code states that [translation] "anyone who pressures a child in any way for the purpose of compelling the child's consent to the marriage will be liable to punishment of one (01) to three (03) years in prison and a fine of one hundred thousand (100,000) to one million (1,000,000) CFA francs" (ibid., Art. 273). Information on whether these punishments have ever been applied could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Under the former Personal and Family Code (Code des personnes et de la famille), dating from 1980, the minimum age for marriage was 20 for men and 17 for women (Togo 1980, art. 43). A new code was enacted in July 2012 (Togo 11 Mar. 2013, 2). In its statement before the 53rd session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, on the occasion of the presentation of its sixth and seventh reports, the government of Togo claimed that the new 2012 Personal and Family Code is consistent with the Children's Code with respect to the minimum age for marriage (Togo 4 Oct. 2012, 16). In addition, the new code prohibits levirate marriage (ibid., 17).

In its initial report to the UN Economic and Social Council in 2011, the government of Togo wrote that [UN English version] "the law does not recognize early or forced marriages. However, there continue to be early and forced marriages in some areas of the country because of the influence of customs and religious practices" (ibid. 4 Oct. 2011, para. 452). Africa for Women's Rights, a campaign launched by a coalition of human rights organizations to call on African countries to [Africa for Women's Rights English version] "ratify international and regional women's human rights protection instruments and to respect them" (Africa for Women's Rights n.d.), indicates that the legal age for marriage is [translation] "often ignored" and that early and forced marriages do take place in Togo (ibid. 5 Mar. 2010).

3. State Protection

In its concluding observations on Togo in 2012, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women stated that several factors prevent women from accessing justice, including the following:

Poverty, the lack of legal literacy, the insufficient number of courts and tribunals, the limited training of judges, lawyers and prosecutors on discrimination against women, and the stigmatization of women who bring their cases to courts (UN 18 Oct. 2012, para. 12).

The WiLDAF representative explained the following:

[translation]

Some cases [of forced marriage] are brought to the social services tribunals. However, given the weight of tradition, it is hard [for] judges to decide on these facts. Today, cultural practices take precedence over applying the law. As Cyrille Ekoue, coordinator of the Action and Reflection Group for Women, Democracy and Development (Groupe de réflexion et d'action Femme, Démocratie et Développement), told me, "Judges sometimes ask associations to help them find amicable solutions to cases of forced marriage brought before them" (WiLDAF 12 Mar. 2013).

This information could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

According to the Country Reports for 2011, in Togo, cases of early marriage are often not reported because parents willingly give their children in marriage (US 24 May 2012, 18).

In the interview published by Ici Lomé, the President of FONDAVO explained that, since many marriages are customary and thus are not legalized, [translation] "many widows are denied their rights" (23 June 2012). In its concluding observations made in 2012, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women stated that it was concerned about "de facto unions," which may leave women without protection after a separation (UN 18 Oct. 2012, para. 40).

4. Treatment of Women and Girls Who Try to Avoid a Forced Marriage

According to the WiLDAF representative, girls who do not want to marry are [translation] "usually banished from the family and left on their own, especially if the case was brought before the courts" (12 Mar. 2013). This information could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate with the time constraints of this Response.

The WiLDAF representative also stated that women can live alone in Togo, both in urban areas and in rural areas (WiLDAF 12 Mar. 2013). This information could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. However, the representative added that the unemployment rate is high for both men and for women, and it can be difficult to find work, but it is perhaps even harder for women, who are also subjected to sexual harassment (ibid.). Based on the results of the Unified Questionnaire on Basic Well-Being Indicators (Enquête du Questionnaire unifié des indicateurs de base de bien-être), conducted in 2011 by Togo's General Directorate of Statistics and National Accounts, 74 percent of men are literate, compared with 47.9 percent of women (Togo 7 Mar. 2013). The survey also shows that 4.3 percent of men and 9 percent of women are unemployed, and that 20.2 percent of men are underemployed, compared with 25.5 percent of women (ibid.).

5. Resources for Victims of Forced Marriage

The WiLDAF representative confirmed that there are a few organizations in Togo, including her own, that deal with forced marriages and carry out activities to, among other things, make parents, traditional and religious chiefs, and the general population aware of the harmful consequences of forced and early marriage (12 Mar. 2013). In the interview with Ici Lomé, the President of FONDAVO stated that his organization works with widows, some of whom were victims of forced marriage (23 June 2012).

Additional information on the resources available to victims of forced marriage could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

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 sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

L'Afrique pour les droits des femmes. 5 March 2010. Togo. [Accessed 11 Mar. 2013]

_____. N.d. "L'Afrique pour les droits des femmes." [Accessed 18 Mar. 2013]

Ici Lomé. 1 July 2012. Dapaong Junior Aurel. "Le 'mariage par échange' toujours en cours dans la région des Savanes, le 'REFED/S' dans la bataille à travers des comités de vigilance." [Accessed 14 Mar. 2013]

_____. 23 June 2012. "Journée internationale de la veuve : interview du président de FONDAVO, Dr Charles Birregah." [Accessed 14 Mar. 2013]

Togo. 11 March 2013. 57ème session de la commission de condition de la femme : intervention de madame Ayawavi Djigbodi Dagban-Zonvide, ministre de la Promotion de la femme. [Accessed 28 Mar. 2013]

_____. 7 March 2013. Direction générale de la statistique et de la comptabilité nationale du Togo. "Publication des résultats de l'Enquête du Questionnaire unifié des indicateurs de base de bien-être (QUIBB) réalisée en 2011." < [Accessed 8 Mar. 2013]

_____. 4 October 2012. Déclaration liminiare du Togo devant la 53ème session du Comité pour l'élimination de la discrimination à l'égard des femmes à l'occasion de la présentation des 6ème et 7ème rapports périodiques combinés sur la CEDEF. [Accessed 11 Mar. 2013]

_____. March 2012. Direction générale de la statistique et de la comptabilité nationale du Togo. Suivi de la situation des enfants et des femmes : enquête par grappes à indicateurs multiples. [Accessed 11 Mar. 2013]

_____. 4 October 2011. Application du Pacte international relatif aux droits économiques, sociaux et culturels. Rapports initiaux présentés par les États parties en vertu des articles 16 et 17 du Pacte : Togo. (E/C.12/TGO/1) [Accessed 15 Mar. 2013]

_____. 2007a. Loi n° 2007-017 du 6 juillet 2007 portant code de l'enfant. [Accessed 18 Mar. 2013]

_____. 2007b. Loi n° 2007-005 du 10 janvier 2007 sur la santé de la reprodution. [Accessed 18 Mar. 2013]

_____. April 1999. Direction de la statistique. Enquête démographique et de santé 1998. [Accessed 28 Mar. 2013]

_____. 1980. Ordonnance n° 80-16 du 31 janvier 1980 portant Code des personnes et de la famille. [Accessed 18 Mar. 2013]

United Nations (UN). 18 October 2012. Comittee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Togo. (CEDAW/C/TGO/CO/6-7) [Accessed 15 Mar. 2013]

United States (US). 24 May 2012. Department of State. "Togo." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011. [Accessed 27 Feb. 2013]

Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF). 12 March 2013. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

_____. January 2013. "Qui sommes-nous?" [Accessed 19 Mar. 2013]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives at the following organizations were unsuccessful: African Union – Women, Gender, and Development Directorate; Association for Women's Rights in Development, L'Afrique pour les droits des femmes; Cercle de réflexion et d'action pour la protection et l'émancipation de la femme; Communauté togolaise du Canada. Representatives of the following organizations were unable to provide information within the time constraints of this Response: Association of African Women for Research and Development; Réseau des organisations féminines d'Afrique francophones; Togo – Ministère des Affaires sociales, de la Protection de la femme et de la Protection de l'enfance; United Nations – United Nations Population Fund, UN Women – West Africa Regional Office and Central Africa Regional Office.

Internet sites, including Afrol News; Agence togolaise de presse; AllAfrica.net; Child Rights International Network; ecoi.net; Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme; Germany – Federal Office for Migration and Refugees; International Center for Research on Women; Lexadin; Liberté-Togo; Minority Rights Group International; Parrainage Africa-Suisse; Radio France internationale; Say No to Violence Against Women; Togo – Ministère de la Justice, RepublicofTogo.com; Togo Confidentiel; UFC Togo; United Kingdom – Home Office; United Nations – United Nations Population Fund, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Comittee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Refworld.