Colonialism and the Legal Status of Women in Francophonic Africa*
This chapter discusses the French colonial legislation in West and Equatorial Africa and its effect upon the status of women under French control until the early 1960's. The effects of European colonialism upon people of the world have been multifold, but little can compare with the zeal and fervor with which the French attempted to legislate dignity and status to African women. African women were a source of dismay to French administrators who had their own conception of 'natural law'. With few exceptions, all the efforts made by French administrators and officials did not work in either raising the status of the African woman or in emancipating her. The problem in francophonic Africa was that its rulers attempted to replace African legal norms with their own at too rapid a pace, and were unaware of those elements of customary law that had significance in regulating social relations within the community.