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Togo: Customary marriages, specifically among the Kabye ethnic group; recourse available to women (April 2003-April 2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 April 2005
Citation / Document Symbol TGO43458.FE
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Togo: Customary marriages, specifically among the Kabye ethnic group; recourse available to women (April 2003-April 2005), 1 April 2005, TGO43458.FE, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Little information on customary marriages among the Kabye ethnic group could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a member of the Canadian Togolese Community (CTC) said that, in his personal opinion, [translation] "customary marriage is traditionally arranged by the family and the woman does not have any say" (29 Mar. 2005).

In correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, the member of the CTC stated that Kabye customary marriage practices, called "akpéma," are mandatory for all young women who have reached marrying age (31 Mar. 2005). No corroborating information could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

In a report on violence against women in Togo, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) states that [translation] "currently, many girls reject . . . the proposed husband; therefore, the parents, wanting to earn respect for their image and their word, will do anything to compel their daughter to marry. It is from there that the violence arises, because generally, in these cases, the girls are removed and taken by force to the husband's home" (Oct. 2002, Sec. 4.1).

The United States Department of State pointed out that "[u]nder customary practice, women become the property of the husband once a marriage takes place" (1 June 2001). The OMCT specifies that [translation] "even in the event of the dissolution of the marriage, according to custom, the woman remains the property of that husband until he is reimbursed the amount that he paid for the dowry" (Oct. 2002, Sec. 4.1).

According to the OMCT, [translation] "by not attributing the legal effects inherent to marriage to a marriage officiated by a traditional leader, the Personal and Family Code (Code des personnes et de la famille) seriously limits the rights of Togolese women-especially in rural areas, where women make up 75 per cent of the population-whose only option is customary marriage officiated through their traditional authorities" (Oct. 2002, Sec. 2.2).

Country Reports 2004 and Freedom House indicate that, under traditional law, women's rights are not respected in the event of divorce and a wife does not have inheritance rights upon the death of her husband (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; Freedom House 24 Aug. 2004). No information on recourse available to women in these situations could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

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.


Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. "Togo." United States Departement of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 29 Mar. 2005]

Freedom House. 24 August 2004. "Togo." Freedom in the World 2004. [Accessed 29 Mar. 2005]

Member of the Canadian Togolese Community (CTC). 31 March 2005. Correspondence.
_____. 29 March 2005. Telephone interview.

United States. 1 June 2001. Departement of State, Office of the Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues. Togo: Report on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or Female Genital Cutting (FGC). [Accessed 29 Mar. 2005]

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). October 2002. Violence à l'égard des femmes en Togo. [Accessed 30 Mar. 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The Togolese League for Human Rights (LTDH), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF/FeDDAF) West Africa and three professors did not respond to information requests within the time constraints.

Internet sites, including: Abyz News Links, Africa Confidential, AllAfrica, BBC, CIA World Factbook, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Famafrique, Global Rights, Human Rights Watch, Jeune Afrique/L'Intelligent, Radio France internationale (RFI), World News Connection (WNC).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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