Online Legal Resources

A to Z is a collection of resources for Ethiopian's legal profession, students, academics and the public. These links have been collected so that users with an interest in the law and Ethiopia may be able to access the Ethiopian legal information they require more quickly. The site is organized simply into an alphabetical list of law subjects. This link is a very helpful source for students who want to study online as teaching materials written by different university teachers under the sponsorship of Justice and Legal System Research Institute are included in the list. Moreover, Training materials prepared by different Proffessionals under the sponsorship of Federal Justice Organs Professionals Training Centerare also in our list. 

Essential conditions for validity of marriage pertain to biological, psychological and sociological factors. The biological factors relate to age, sex and state of health of the future spouses, whereas the psychological factor relates to the freedom of will of the parties. On the other hand, the sociological aspect pertains to issues like marriage between persons related by consanguinity and affinity as well as by adoption and it also incorporates bigamy. When we come to the sources of such restriction, O’Donovan had the following to say:

Such impediments were known to the Feteha Negest and covered obstacles to the union arising from prior relationships, from previous marriage, or from age. Also included were defects arising from the ceremony itself. Such marriages were prohibited and in some cases gave rise to penal sanctions. Many of the impediments found in the Feteha Negest have been retained in the Civil Code. But those related only to the rules of religion have been dropped.

The essential conditions that are found in the RFC are derived from the Civil Code, which in turn is derived from the Feteha Negest. So we can say that most of the conditions are derived from the Feteha Negest.

In the following sub topics, discussion will be made on these essential conditions for the conclusion of a valid marriage.


Marriage is an institution which is to be entered into by the parties with their free and full consent. The UN Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum age of Marriage and Registration of marriage as well as the Recommendation of the UN General Assembly which was adopted in 1965 provide consent as a prerequisite for the conclusion of marriage.

Pursuant to article 1 of the UN Convention, no marriage shall be legally entered into without the full and free consent of both parties. This requirement is further strengthened by the Recommendation. The Convention as well as the Recommendation put an obligation on member states to make sure that future spouses have decided, of their free will and consent, to enter into marriage. One way of compliance with this obligation is the harmonization of domestic laws in line with the international commitments of the countries. Ethiopia is one of the countries who have acceded to this Convention. As a result, the Constitution as well as the RFC and the regional family codes incorporate consent as a validity requirement of marriage.

In some parts of Ethiopia, the culture does not require the consent of the future spouses for conclusion of marriage; rather what really matters is the willingness of their parents to tie their children in bond of marriage. In effect many marriages have been concluded not on the basis of the willingness of the spouses but of their parents. This has been considered as a ground for many disputes in families. Considering this deep rooted culture, many efforts have been made to bring change, particularly through the use of legislations. In this respect what comes in the fore front is the 1995 Constitution. Article 34/2 of the Constitution reiterates the requirement that marriages should be entered into upon the free and full consent of the parties. In addition to this the RFC considers the free and full consent of the parties as a validity requirement for conclusion of marriage.

When the international as well as domestic legal instruments require existence of consent as a requirement for marriage, it implies that ‘there must be no duress or force inducing the marriage or any misunderstanding as to the effect of the marriage ceremony.’ Hence, the RFC recognizes some grounds which would vitiate the consent of the spouses.


Fundamental Error

The first ground which is considered as a base for vitiating consent of the parties is error. However, it is not all types of errors which would vitiate the consent, rather, as per article 13/2 of the RFC; the error has to be a fundamental one. What the law considers to be fundamental errors are illustrated under sub article 3 of article 13. These include:

    1. Error on the identity of the spouse where it is not the person with whom a person intended to conclude marriage: - here the mistake has to be as to identity rather than as to attribute. Cases of impersonation can be considered as fundamental error falling under this category. However, if the error pertains to the attribute of the person like for instance if one party mistakenly thought that the other was rich, it can not be considered as a fundamental error as per the requirement of the article and hence, will not be a ground to invalidate the marriage.
    2. Error on the state of health of the spouse who is affected by a disease that does not heal or can be genetically transmitted to descendants:-
    3. Error on the bodily confirmation of the spouse who does not have the requisite sexual organ for the consummation of the marriage
    4. Error on the behavior of the spouse who has the habit of performing sexual acts with person of the same sex.


Violence (Duress)

The other ground which would vitiate the consent of spouses to enter into marriage is violence. If the consent to marry was extracted by violence, it cannot be said that the party has freely consented to the marriage. As a result, article 14 of the RFC considers a marriage concluded when consent is extorted by violence as an invalid marriage. Moreover, the article further illustrates situations which might lead the court to determine whether the consent was extorted by violence or not. Hence, if the consent was given to protect himself/herself or one of his/her ascendants or descendants or any other close relative from a serious and imminent danger or thereat of danger, it can be said that the consent was extorted by violence.

Some of the issues which need further clarification on consent extorted by violence include the following.

  1. What must the threat or fear be of? At one time it was thought that it was only possible for duress to render a marriage voidable if there was a threat to life, limb or property. Recently the court of appeal in Hirani vs Hirani suggested that the test for duress should focus on the effect of the threat rather that the nature of the threat. In other words, the threat can be of any kind, but it must be shown that the threats, pressure or whatever it is, is such as to destroy the reality of the consent and overbear the will of the individual. In the case of Hirani vs. Hirani the court accepted that social pressure could overbear the consent. The woman was threatened with ostracisation by her community and her family if she did not go through with the marriage and the fear of complete social isolation was such that there was no true consent. The effect of the Hirani decision is that those who have undergone an arranged marriage in the face of a serious threat have the choice of either accepting their culture and the validity of their marriage or accepting dominant culture’s view that marriage should be made voidable. This could be regarded as an appropriate compromise between respecting the cultural practice of arranged marriages and respecting people’s right to choose whom to marry. 
  1. Must the fear be reasonably held? What if threat was made, but a reasonable person would not have taken it seriously? In Szcher it was suggested that duress could not be relied upon unless the fear was reasonably held. Against this is Scott v Selbright in which it was suggested that as long as the beliefs of threats were honestly held, duress could be relied upon. The second view is preferable because it would be undesirable to punish a person for their careless mistake by denying them an annulment.  
  2. By whom must the threat be made? The thereat can emanate from a third party; it need not emanate from the spouse.


Judicial Interdiction

Judicial interdiction exists in the cases where a person is insane according to article 339 of the Civil Code and where he has bee n interdicted by the court. The court orders interdiction of the person because his health and his interest so requires or because his heirs’ interest so require. These two conditions have to simultaneously be present for the court to give order of interdiction. The order of interdictions means the interdicted person will have lessened capacity and hence need to be protected. ‘The basic idea underlying these protective measures is to ensure that the physical person who holds rights and duties but cannot exercise them is provided with the assistance of some other person who shall act on his behalf in most acts of juridical life.’As a result of the lessened capacity, an interdicted person may conclude marriage only with the authorization of the court.


As discussed above, under Ethiopian law, marriage is an institution to be entered into by the full and free consent of the parties. In order to freely consent to the marriage, the parties should understand the consequences of their acts, and hence need to attain a certain age. The Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum age of Marriage and Registration of Marriage under the preamble, by making cross reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that it is only those men and women who attained full age who can enter into marriage. This being the requirement, the next question would be as to who could be considered as being of full age. Specifying the minimum age for marriage is left for the individual countries to govern through legislation. However, this power of the state is not without any limitations. As can be seen from the Recommendation on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages, General Assembly resolution 2018 (XX), principle II, Member States shall take legislative action to specify a minimum age for marriage, which in any case shall not be less than fifteen years of age. Hence, the minimum marriageable age in any country will be 15 years, though it can be set at higher age than this.

There are different reasons which can be raised as a ground for limiting the minimum marriageable age of spouses.

‘The standard justification for age restrictions has been the claim that “[m]arriage involving teenagers are more unstable than other marriages and are more likely to end in divorce than other marriages.” It is not clear, however, that the youth of the participants is what causes their marital failure. A number of studies point to non-age related factors as important predictors of marital failure.’

When we come to the RFC, the minimum marriageable age is 18 years for both sexes. Hence, any person who has not attained the full age of 18 years may not conclude a valid marriage. However, there are circumstances in which a valid marriage could be concluded without the fulfillment of this requirement. This is provided as an exception under sub article two. If the Minister of Justice, for serious cause, grants for dispensation, on application of the future spouses, or the parents or guardian of one of them, marriage could be validly concluded. The dispensation, however, may not be more than two years. This means, the maximum year that can be dispensed by the Minister is 2 years, and hence, the lowest age of marriage can be 16 years.

This exception provided under the RFC is in line with the power given to states by the Convention as well as the Recommendation. Both documents recognize the power of the appropriate authority to grant dispensation for serious reason in the interest of the future spouses. The very basic question here is as to how the serious cause can be identified.      



The other essential condition for the conclusion of marriage is relationship, or rather the existence of prohibited degrees.

Although it would be true to  say that restrictions on certain types of sexual relations are a universal feature of primitive and advanced societies, it should be remembered that ‘this must be understood as meaning that some sort of prohibition on mating is universal, not that a particular set of relations is universally tabooed’. Thus a wide variety of restrictions are possible, ranging from ‘elementary’ systems in which prohibitions on certain relations are accompanied by a requirement that individuals marry only from within a certain group, to ‘complex’ systems in which only certain relations are excluded and the choice of partner is left to the individual.

In many societies across the world there are laws which prohibit marriage between people who are related. The same is true in Ethiopia. The restrictions under the RFC are based on two groups of relations: those based on blood relationships i.e. consanguinity and those based on marriage, i.e. affinity. These restrictions were also maintained under the 1960 Civil Code, though with a different degree of restriction.

The prohibited consanguinity restrictions involve marriage between persons related in the direct line between ascendants and descendants. Hence, marriage between parent and child, grandparent and grandchild is prohibited. On the collateral line, article 8/2 prohibits marriage between a man and his sister or aunt and also a woman and her brother or uncle.

There are different reasons given for prohibiting marriage between related persons. The first argument is the fear of genetic danger involved in permitting procreation between close blood relatives. In technologically advanced countries, however, it is argued that the availability of genetic screening could avert the danger, and hence the restriction cannot be supported.

The other arguments raised for the restriction include

 ‘…permitting marriage between close relations may undermine the security of the family. The argument is that children should be brought up without the possibility of approved sexual relations latter in life with the members of their family. The third argument can be based on the widespread instinctive moral reaction against such relationships.’

At the time of debating on the draft RFC, the reason for restriction as well as up to what degree the restriction should be was discussed thoroughly. Under the 1960 Civil Code, marriage between ascendants and descendants as well as collaterals up to the 7th degree was prohibited. Some suggested that the ground for this restriction is Christianity and the culture of the Northern parts of the country, and hence is not representative of the whole society. However, as discussed above, the restriction is also available in other countries of the world and is also supported by medical evidence. Hence, in order to reconcile the different religions and culture in the country with the science a limited restriction as far as collaterals is concerned, is adopted by the RFC.

Marriage between persons who are related by affinity in the direct line is also prohibited under the RFC article 9. On the collateral line, marriage between a man and the sister of his wife, and a woman and the brother of her husband is also prohibited. When we analyze the restriction in light of the grounds for restriction, not all the arguments hold water. Though there are genetic dangers involved in permitting procreation between close blood relatives, these dangers do not exist at all between affinies. Hence, it can be argued that the reason for such prohibition in the affiny is one of moral, rather than scientific.


The other essential condition for the conclusion of a valid marriage is the absence of prior marriage. As stipulated under article 11 of the RFC, a person is not allowed to conclude marriage when he is bound by the bonds of a preceding marriage. Many countries have laws which prohibit bigamous marriages. For instance, if we look at article 35/4 cumulative article 41 of the Family Code of the Philippines of 1987 contraction of marriage by a person during subsistence of a previous marriage makes the subsequent marriage null and void.

On the issue of bigamy Herring has the following to say in relation to the English law

If at the time of the ceremony either party is already married to someone else, the ‘marriage’ will be void. The marriage will remain void even if the first spouse dies during the second ‘marriage’. So if a person is married and wishes to marry someone else, he or she must obtain a decree of divorce or wait until the death of his or her spouse. If the first marriage is void it is technically not necessary to obtain a court order to that effect before marrying again, but that is normally sought to avoid any uncertainty. In case of bigamy, as well as the purported marriage being void, the parties may have committed the crime of bigamy.

Many cultures do permit polygamous marriages, although in British society monogamous marriages are the accepted norm. There are concrete objections to polygamous marriages. Some argue that polygamy may create divisions within the family, with one husband or wife vying for dominance over the other, and particularly that divisions may arise between the children of different parents. Supporters of polygamous marriage argue that polygamy lead to less divorce and provide a wider family support network in which to raise children. Polygamy could also be regarded as a form of sex discrimination unless both men and women were permitted to take more than one spouse. There have also been suggestions that permitting polygamous marriages involves an insult to the religious sensitivities of the majority. 

These arguments in favor and against polygamous marriages were also reflected at the time of debating on the draft RFC. Ethiopia is a multi religious and multi cultural country. Some consider condemnation of polygamous marriage against their culture and religious beliefs. Some followers of Islam religion were arguing at the time of the debate that it would be against the right that they obtain by virtue of their religion, and hence polygamous marriages should not be prohibited. However, there was also division of opinion on the part of the followers of Islam on this. On the other hand, female right advocates were arguing that it is against the Constitutional right of female to allow polygamous marriage. Taking into account the diverse views on the issue, the law opted for the first view. Hence, for a person to conclude a valid marriage there should not be a preceding marriage.   

Period of Widowhood

The concept introduced here by the legislature relates to the fact that a woman is under prohibition to remarry within the next one hundred and eighty days following the dissolution of her former marriage. This condition was also included in the Civil Code of 1960 and was subject to criticisms from different parties, particularly from female right advocates. They construe this provision as limiting the right of female to conclude marriage at any time she wants, mainly because the limitation does not apply for males. However, when one looks into the rationale for this restriction, it will be clear that the limitation is nit designed to discriminate between the two sexes.

The rationale for the limitation under article 16 is to respect the right of children enshrined in the Constitution and other international human right instruments to which Ethiopia is a party. Article 36/1/c of the 1995 FDRE Constitution provides that each child has the right to know and be cared for by his/her parent or legal guardian. This principle is also enshrined under article---- of the UN Convention on the Right of the Child (CRC) to which Ethiopia is a party. In addition to this right, article 128 of the RFC provides a presumption as to the duration of pregnancy. In order to respect the right of children and also to comply with the presumption, it is necessary to avoid any circumstances which would create a doubt as to who the father of that child is. Hence, by requiring the female to wait for a period of 180 days following the dissolution of a previous marriage, the law tries to avid any conflict of paternity.

Taking into account the modern advances of medical science in which the existence of pregnancy can easily be identified, it may be argued that the condition is unnecessary. However, we have to also look into the fact that many women in the country do not have access to facilities providing the service. In addition to this, the article also provides for some exceptional circumstances in which the 180 days restriction need not be observed.

The first of such exceptions is if the woman gives birth after the dissolution of marriage and before the lapse of the 180 days. In such a situation, it is presumed that the child is born from the previous marriage and hence there will not be any conflict on paternity. Hence, she may remarry even before the 180 days lapsed. Remarrying the former husband will also avoid the conflict on paternity and hence if the woman is marrying her previous husband, she may do so without waiting for the 180 days. In addition to this, if she can prove by medical evidence that she is not pregnant, she need not wait for the lapse of the specified time before concluding another marriage. Taking into account the fact that it is impossible to list all the grounds which may dispense a woman from observing the period of widowhood, the law gives discretion for the court to dispense her from observing the this requirement for any other valid reason.


In earlier times, before two persons conclude marriage, they would go through the process of betrothal. Mainly the betrothal was concluded between the parents of the future spouses. Betrothal is defined under article 560 of the civil code as a contract between the members of two families that a marriage shall take place between two persons, the fiancé and the fiancée, belonging to these two families. Hence, under the Civil Code, the betrothal contract is to be concluded between family members of the future spouses and more emphasis is given to the choice, consent and interest of these family members rather than the future spouses. Moreover, in many circumstances the practice shows that betrothal was concluded when the future spouses are underage and sometimes not yet born. This means, the interest and choice of the future spouses was not considered at all.

On the other hand, the Constitution of 1995 recognizes the right of individuals to form a family with their own free and full consent. As result, the provisions of the Civil Code dealing with betrothal were found to be contrary to this fundamental right of individuals. Hence, the RFC has excluded the concept of betrothal as a whole.

However, some regional family codes maintain the concept of betrothal with modification. The major modification made relates to the definition given to betrothal. All the regional laws which incorporated the concept of betrothal defined it as a pact between the fiancé and fiancée to conclude marriage sometime in the future. This is unlike the definition given by the Civil Code which involves only the parents or guardians of the future spouses.

The Family Code of the Amhara region requires the contract of betrothal to be made in a written form signed by four family witnesses, two from each side. On the other hand, the family code of the Benishangul Gumuz region allows betrothal to be concluded pursuant to the custom of the area. This may be either in writing or orally, whichever is customarily practiced in the region. When we look into article 4 of the SNNP regional family code, both options are included.

The family codes have also provided a time framework for the duration of the betrothal. Article 6 of the SNNP family code leaves it open for the parties to determine the duration of betrothal. However, if the parties fail to mention the time for the conclusion of marriage, it requires them to tie the pact within a year after the conclusion of the betrothal contract. The family code of the Benishangul Gumuz, on the other hand, gives only six months after the conclusion of the betrothal contract. The time framework given under article 6 of the Amhara regional family code is two years. Hence, the marriage has to be concluded within two years following the betrothal contract.  

The family codes have also envisaged a situation for the invalidation of the betrothal contract. If one of the parties to the betrothal contract communicate their intention to invalidate the betrothal, or refuse to conclude marriage within the intended period or engaged in any act to impede the conclusion of marriage, the betrothal contract will be invalidated. The consequences of breach of the contract are also illustrated in the subsequent articles.

Definition of Marriage

The family in the Ethiopian Constitution is recognized as the natural and fundamental unit of a society and an important legal and social institution. As a result, it is given legal protection. One thing that should be noted here is that a marriage may be regarded as either a status or a contract. As Jonathan Herring noted

Marriage could be regarded as either a status or a contract. In law a status is regarded as a relationship which has a set of legal consequences which flow automatically from that relationship, regardless of the intention of the parties. A status has been defined as ‘the condition of belonging to a class in society to which the law ascribes peculiar rights and duties, capacities and incapacities.’ So the status view of marriage would suggest that, if a couple marry, then they are subject to the law governing marriage, regardless of their intentions. The alternative approach would be to regard contract as governing marriage. The legal consequences of marriage would then flow from the intentions of the parties as set out in an agreement rather than any given rules set down by the law.

Marriage is perhaps best regarded as a mixture of the two. There are some legal consequences which flow automatically from marriage and other consequences which depend on the agreement of the parties. The law sets out: who can marry, when the relationship can be ended and what are the consequences for the parties of being married.

In Ethiopia, marriage is regarded in both the Civil Code. The Revised Family Code and the regional family codes as an institution, rather than a contract. However, when it comes to defining this institution, neither laws are helpful. Hence, to have a common understanding of the institution, it is necessary to resort to the definitions given by other foreign laws.

In the English legal system, marriage, as defined by Sir James Wilde in the land mark case of Hyde Vs Hyde, is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.  This same definition is also upheld under the Australian Marriage Act of 1961. The definitional part as well as Section 46 of the Australian Marriage act defines marriage as the voluntary union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of others. This definition has been taken from the English definition of marriage. Both definitions contain three common elements. First, the marriage has to be concluded between a man and a woman, there is no legal marriage between same sex persons. Secondly, the institution of marriage is to be entered into with the absolute consent of the parties i.e., voluntarily. In addition, the marriage is expected to last for a life time, death being the only cause for dissolution.

The Philippines Family Code of 1987, on the other hand, defines marriage as a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life. In addition to the elements that are present in the English and Australian definition of marriage, the Philippines family code considers the establishment of conjugal and family life as essential elements for marriage.

The definitions given by the different legal systems have their own shortcomings. All the documents tend to be ideal in the sense they expect the union to last for life, while in reality marriages breakdown for different reasons other than death. Moreover, the central aim of concluding marriage seems to be establishment of a family, while in reality, some couples conclude marriage knowing that they cannot have their own children. 

Taking into account the insufficiency of the definitions given by many foreign laws, the Ethiopian legislature opted not to give any definition at all.


Modes of Conclusion of Marriage

The Revised Federal Family Code as well as the Regional Family Codes recognized three modes of conclusion of marriage. These are: Civil Marriage, Religious Marriage and Customary Marriage.

Civil Marriage (Marriage Concluded before an Officer of Civil Status)

For a marriage to be considered as being concluded before an officer of civil status, a man and a woman need to appear before the officer for the purpose of concluding marriage and give their respective consent to enter into marriage.  Hence, the phrase civil marriage basically refers to the fact that the marriage has been solemnized in front of an officer who is empowered to accept the consent of parties wishing to enter into marriage.

The 1960 Ethiopian Civil Code provides for the establishment and the duties of the office of civil status. However, implementations of the provisions which deal with this office have been made to wait for the issuance of an Order to be published in the Negarit Gazeta, which has never come into life. As a result, currently there is no established office of civil status. In municipal areas, the functions of the officer of civil status are assumed and performed by the municipalities. For instance in Addis Ababa the offices of the Kifle ketemas are the ones who oversee the performance of civil marriages.

In order to conclude civil marriage, there are certain formalities and requirements which are stipulated by the RFC. The first formality is that of a residence. Pursuant to article 22 of the code, civil marriage is concluded before the officer of civil status of the place where one of the future spouses or one of the ascendants or close relatives of one of them has established a residence by continuously living there for not less than six months before the conclusion of the marriage. Hence, the solemnization of a civil marriage is to be conducted in the place in which one of the aforementioned has established a residence for a minimum of six months. Residence, on the other hand is defined by the Civil Code as the place where a person normally resides. The code also tries to distinguish between residing in a place and a mere sojourn in a particular place. In determining existence of a residence, the notion of normality and intention of the person concerned are vital. In addition to this, article 175/2 requires staying in a particular place for a minimum of three months to constitute residence. ‘Although the code does not settle the point, it seems that the period of three months must be uninterrupted.’ However, when it is for the purpose of conclusion of marriage, this article of the Civil Code is qualified by virtue of article 22 of the RFC. As a result, those persons enumerated under article 22 of the RFC have to reside in the place for a continuous period of six months. This article also answers the question as to whether the period should be interrupted or uninterrupted one.

The other formality is that of giving notice. The RFC requires the future spouses to inform the officer of Civil Status of their intention to conclude marriage not less than a month before the celebration of the marriage. The purpose of notifying the officer is to make sure that there are no impediments to the conclusion of marriage and to allow anyone who want to oppose to the marriage to do so in accordance with the law. This can be understood from the requirement on the part of the officer to publicize the notification stipulated under the same article as well as the subsequent articles of the Code.

The process of notification and waiting period (or the formal requirements for conclusion of marriage before an officer of civil status) are available in other countries’ laws as well. For instance, all states in America prescribe some formalities for conclusion of marriage. And the regulations are categorized into two classes: licensure and solemnization.

As Ellman et al put it:

‘All states have marriage license laws. Applicants provide certain information to a governmental office concerning age, prior relationship by blood or marriage, previous marriage etc. This information helps in compiling vital statistics and could facilitate enforcement of substantive marriage regulations by permitting the clerk to screen out ineligible applicants. For example, if the application revealed the bride and groom were siblings, the license would be denied under laws prohibiting incestuous marriages. In practice, the license law does little to restrain intentional violation of substantive regulations, because little effort is made to confirm the truth of the license application information.’

On the issue of waiting period, the authors have noted that:

‘Most states impose a waiting period (of either 3 or 5 days), either between the application and issuance of the license or between issuance and performance of the ceremony. …the waiting period requirement as well as the entire licensing procedure is explained as impressing upon the parties the seriousness of the entry into marriage.’

The 1949 Marriage Act of the UK also stipulates some formalities for conclusion of marriage. Under this law, the parties are required to give notice in prescribed form to their local superintendent registrar (in whose area they must have been resident for seven days preceding the giving of notice) of their intention to marry. Here one should note the difference in the requirement to constitute a residence under the Marriage Act of the UK with that of the Ethiopian Revised Family Code. Under the 1949 Family Act of the UK, the requirement is only seven days while in the Ethiopian context, the parties have to reside in that particular area for a period not less than six months. In addition to the notice requirement, the parties are also expected to provide a declaration that there are believed to be no lawful impediments to the marriage.

Once these preliminary formalities are fulfilled and the work of publicizing the intention of the parties to marry has been made by the civil status officer, the next step is the celebration (solemnization) of marriage. Celebration of marriage is to be made publicly in the presence of the future spouses and two witnesses for each of the future spouses. One requirement stipulated under article 25 of the RFC is that the future spouses have to personally appear for the solemnization process. In connection to this requirement, the issue of proxy marriages can be raised.

The question of whether marriage can be concluded by proxy is of little practical importance in modern times. However, there may be circumstances which would necessitate the use of representation for marriage. Historically, the late Roman law and the Canon law allowed in a clear manner celebration of marriage by proxy. In the words of Pomponius:

A man who was away from home might marry a woman by letter or messenger, but marriage could not be contracted in this manner by a woman who was absent from the man's place of residence. The reason for this difference between the man and the woman resulted from the requirement of the Roman law that the wife be led to the husband's home.

The Code Napoleon, on the other, does not prohibit proxy marriage in express terms. It simply puts an obligation on the officer of civil status to read the parties the requirement of the law with respect to marriage and the mutual right and duties of the parties which emanates from the marriage. In order to achieve this purpose, it seems that the parties need to personally be present at the ceremony. However, some French writers held the view that in the absence of express provision which made marriage concluded by proxy void, it should be considered as valid.

Marriage by representation is necessary when one of the parties cannot be present for the ceremony. ‘While its most prominent use has been in wartime with one party on duty overseas, sometimes it is used by prisoners.’ The First World War was the main reason for many European countries to allow in their laws for the conclusion of marriage through representation.


The French Law of April 4, 1915 authorized soldiers and sailors with the colors to marry for grave reasons by proxy with the permission of the minister of justice and of the minister of war or the minister of the navy…. Soldiers and sailors, employees of the Army and Navy, and persons in the service of the Army and Navy, were authorized in Italy to marry by proxy by a decree of June 24, 1915.

Considering the need to conclude marriage by representation, the Civil Code of 1960 as well as the RFC allowed by way of exception for the conclusion of marriage through representation. One should note here that in principle each of the future spouses are required to appear personally and give their consent to the marriage at the time and place of celebration. However, if one of the parties, for serious cause, could not be personally present, marriage by representation may be allowed by representation. Here one question that needs to be addressed is, what does it mean by ‘serious cause’?

The RFC does not go beyond requiring the existence of a serious cause and the existence of consent of the represented person and define what a serious cause could be. We can attempt to identify what a serious cause is by looking into the laws of other countries and the reason for these countries to allow marriage by proxy. As discussed above, many countries allow marriage by proxy when one of the spouses are away on military work or in the navy and sometimes also for prisoners, among others. Hence, one can conclude that ‘serious cause’ in the Ethiopian Family Code will also be interpreted in light of these grounds.

The other formality incorporated under article 25 of the RFC is the obligation on the witnesses to declare, under oath, that the essential conditions for marriage are fulfilled. As mentioned earlier, one purpose of imposing these formality requirements is to make sure that the substantive requirements for conclusion of marriage are fulfilled. One way of achieving this purpose is by requesting the witnesses to confirm under oath the fulfillment of these conditions. As can be grasped from the next sub-article, the taking of the oath has its own consequences, and the consequences should be explained to the witnesses by the Officer.

The third formality requirement for celebration of civil marriages is that the future spouses need to declare openly that they have consented to enter into the marriage. Marriage is an institution which is to be entered into by the parties of their free will. The existence of their free will has to be openly communicated to the officer of civil status. Apart from the open communication of their will, the future spouses as well as the witnesses are required to sign in the register of the Civil Status.

After the fulfillment of all the above mentioned formalities, what is left is for the Officer of civil status to pronounce them united in marriage and issue a certificate of marriage.

Religious Marriage

The second type of marriage which is given recognition by the RFC is religious marriage. Pursuant to article 3 of the RFC, a religious marriage takes place when a man and a woman have performed such acts or rites as deemed to constitute a valid marriage by their religion or by the religion of one of them. As a result, the formal requirements for the conclusion of religious marriage are dictated by the religion itself. This is further corroborated by article 26/1. Hence, the conclusion of the religious marriage as well as the formalities to be followed is as prescribed by the concerned religion. However, one should note here that the essential conditions that are stipulated by the RFC need to be observed whatever the manner of celebration of marriage is. 

Customary Marriage

Ethiopia is a nation which is believed to be home for more than eighty nationalitites. These different nationalitites have their own peculiar customs. The diversity in the customs of the people has been recognized by the 1995 FDRE Constitution. Particularly, Article 34/4 of the Constitution stipulates for the enactment of a specific law which gives recognition to marriage concluded under systems of religious or customary laws. In light of this obligation, the RFC gives the future spouses the option to conclude their marriage in accordance with customary practices.

Pursuant to Article 4 of the RFC marriage according to custom takes place when a man and a woman have performed such rites as deemed to constitute valid marriage by the custom of the community in which they live or by the custom of the community to which they belong or to which one of them belong. One important thing which needs to be noted here is that for a marriage to be concluded according to custom, the custom referred to is of three: the custom of the community in which they live, or the custom of the community to which both future spouses belong or alternatively to which one of them belong. This is in contradistinction to the Civil Code of 1960. Article 580 of the Civil Code considers a marriage to be customary marriage when it is concluded under the rules of the community to which the future spouses belong or to which one of them belongs. Defining customary marriage in such manner has the effect of excluding marriages concluded by two persons belonging to a certain tribe but the marriage was concluded using the rites of a different tribe. For instance if a man from the Oromo tribe concludes marriage with a woman from the Tigray tribe and the marriage was concluded in Amhara region by fulfilling the rites of the Amhara tribe, such marriage will not be considered as a customary marriage concluded by fulfilling the requirements of the Amhara tribe, because neither of the spouses belong to that tribe. Considering the shortcoming of article 580 of the Civil Code, the RFC included the custom of the community in which the parties are living at the time of conclusion of marriage.

 The conclusion of the marriage as well as the formalities, hence, is to be prescribed by the concerned community. Here also note should be made to the effect that the customary marriages also need to observe the essential conditions of marriage stipulated by the RFC.

Marriage Celebrated Abroad

The other new introduction in the RFC is the recognition of marriages that are celebrated abroad. This is necessitated by the increase in the movement of people from one place to another. Not recognizing a marriage which is concluded by fulfilling the legal requirements of the place of celebration would result in unfair and undesirable consequences. As a result, article 5 of RFC provides for the recognition of marriages which are celebrated abroad as valid in Ethiopia. Here, two things are worth mentioning. The marriage whose recognition is sought in Ethiopia has to be concluded by fulfilling the legal requirements of the place of celebration. This can be gathered from the phrase ‘…in accordance with the law of the place of celebration…’. Hence, when recognition of the marriage is sought, it has to first be identified whether the legal requirements of the place of celebration were fulfilled.  Moreover, the law puts public morality of the Ethiopian people as a limitation on the recognition of marriages celebrated abroad. That is to say, the foreign marriage will be recognized in Ethiopia only in respect of its formality and not as to its substance. A good example here is the case of same-sex marriage. Some western countries and one African country have made same-sex marriage lawful. Hence same-sex marriages could be concluded lawfully in these countries. However, these types of marriages cannot be recognized in Ethiopia for different grounds. First, the law, though indirectly, considers marriage to be a union between a man and a woman, not between the same sexes. Hence, same-sex marriage does not fulfill the definitional requirement of marriage under Ethiopian law. Secondly, article 629 of the new criminal Code made sexual activity and any indecent act with persons of the same sex a crime. For stronger reason, marriage between same sexes will be prohibited. In addition to this, article 5 of the RFC provides for the recognition of marriages celebrated abroad as far as doing so will not be contrary to public morality. The ground for criminalizing sexual activity between same sexes is that it is repugnant to the morality of the Ethiopian people. For the grounds discussed above, marriage between same sexes will not be recognized in Ethiopia.

There is no generally accepted definition of family law. ‘Family law is usually seen as the law governing the relationship between children and parents, and between adults in close emotional relationships’. Many areas of law can have an impact on family life: tax laws, immigration laws as well as insurance laws have great connection with family law. As Dewar noted:

Most legal disciplines would claim to possess at least one of two forms of coherence. The first stems from the organizing legal concept from which the discipline in question derives its name: ‘contract’, ‘negligence’, ‘trust’. The second relates to the set of ‘real world’ problems with which the discipline is concerned: labor relations, housing, land use, commerce, government and administration. At first glance, it would seem that the area of study designated as family law possesses a coherence of the second sort. After all, the term ‘family’ has in itself no legal significance (although attempts are often made to define the family for legal purposes); and the subject usually comprises a mixed bag of legal rules and concepts, such as those concerned with marriage, divorce, parents and children and property, each possessing a different historical origin and pattern of development. The only justification for studying them together is that they all in some way concern the family, a social phenomenon constituted outside the categories of the law. For this reason, family law has grown over the years to include parts of other legal disciplines of relevance to the family, such as property, criminal and housing law, taxation, social security, evidence and procedure; as well as incorporating legal aspects of phenomena thought to have a ‘family’ connection, such as domestic violence, child abuse, marital rape, surrogacy, homelessness and pensions (to name a few).

In spite of this, can it still be said that family law is a coherent area of study? It has already been suggested that it cannot satisfy the first criterion of coherence mentioned above; and if it were to satisfy the second, the subject would be a good deal broader than it is now, probably unmanageable so. For if we were really to take the family as the starting point, and were to consider all areas of law relevant to the family, we would want to include much that is not currently considered part of the subject. For example, we might wish to consider the welfare state, the fiscal system and the labor market in more detail than is customary; and we may also want to consider the areas of education and health services. These are all areas of relevance to families and in which the family is encountered as a necessary relay in the implementation of programs of social action. But family law has not been interpreted as broadly as this. Instead, it focuses primarily on the more traditional question of status and is thus primarily concerned with the means by which status is conferred, such as marriage, parenthood and cohabitation, and on the means by which status may alter, such as divorce or state action to remove children from parents. More recently, it has become concerned with the problem of individuals abused by members of their own family.    

[Excerpts from: John Dewar, Law and the Family, 2nd ed, Butterworths, London, 1992, p.1-2]


Rationale Behind Protection and Regulation of the Family

There are various reasons for regulating and protecting the family through the adoption of legislative interventions. Before looking at these reasons it is necessary to define a family. The legal definition of family is not a unitary concept. However, we can find some suggested definitions.

Planiol defines a family as a group of persons who are united by marriage, by filiation or even, but exceptionally, by adoption. Another more or less similar definition is given by Murdok. In that definition, family is considered as ' a social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation, and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one and more children, own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults.'

From the definitions given above, one can categorize the family into nuclear and extended family. The first and basic type of family organization is the nuclear family.

The nuclear family basically consists of a married man and woman with their offspring. ‘The nuclear family is a universal human social grouping. Either as the sole prevailing form of the family or as the basic unit from which more complex familial forms are compounded, it existed as a distinct and strongly functional group in every known society.’

An extended family, on the other hand, consists of two or more nuclear families affiliated through an extension of the parent-child relationship rather than of the husband-wife relationship, i.e, by joining the nuclear family of a married adult to that of his parents.

This way of defining the family has been criticized recently by many, especially by authors in the western society, for its lack of accommodating the changes in the circumstances and societal values. As will be seen shortly, establishing a family relationship will have its own effects, like for instances on issues of child custody, maintenance and other rights and obligations. Defining family in the above manner restricts persons engaged in nontraditional relationships from having those rights and obligations. (Harvard Law Review, vol 104, p 1642-1659)

The family is a very important constitutive part of a society. It has natural, economic as well as social importance. ‘The state of the weakness and of destitution in which the child is born, the amount and length of care he needs, impose upon his parents duties which are not fulfilled in one day and which create the solid foundation of all of the family relation.’ 

The family is the nucleus of the society, and hence much depends on its safety and security. As Planiol correctly notes, ‘the small family group is the most essential element of all those which compose the great agglomerations of men which are called nations. The family is the irreducible nucleus. And the whole is worth what it itself is worth. When it is impaired or dissolved, all the rest crumbles.’ Though the family may contain only few people, the impact that this unit has on the whole society is great. Factors affecting a single family will later on have the effect of affecting the whole society.

Due to the fact that the marital status as well as the family entails community rights and obligations far beyond those implicit in the ordinary civil contract, it is conceded that the states may prescribe the conditions on which the status may be assumed. As a result, marriage laws are subject to the control of the state government; and the interest of the state in the marriage of its citizens has long been recognized. 'The state, it is said, is a party to every marriage. This means simply that the state is interested in the well ordered regulation of the family organization of the persons within its borders.'

The state uses different means to regulate and control the formation as well as the effects of forming a family. One basic means of doing so is through legislations. Laws have various functions within a state.

'Laws do more than distribute rights, responsibilities, and punishments. Laws help to shape the public meanings of important institutions, including marriage and family. The best interdisciplinary studies of institutions conclude that social institutions are shaped and constituted by their shared public meanings. According to Nobel Prize winner Douglass North, institutions perform three unique tasks. They establish public norms or rules of the game that frame a particular domain of human life. They broadcast these shared meanings to society. Finally, they shape social conduct and relationships through these authoritative norms.

Hence, the state protects and regulates the family by using its legislative power.


Sources of Family Relationships


There are three sources of family relationships namely, marriage, filiation and adoption. The status of the persons as well as the rights and obligations of the persons differs with the difference in the source of the relationship. This section deals with the different sources of family relationships and the effects of the relationships.


Relationship by consanguinity

Relationship by consanguinity results from the birth. It is ‘the tie which exists between two persons, such as the son and the father, the grandson and the grandfather; or those who descend from a common ancestor, such as two brothers, or two cousins.’        Hence, relationship by consanguinity is a natural fact which is derived from birth.

Excerpts from Planiol pages 387-389

The series of relatives who descend from each other form what is called a line. It is a direct relationship: it is represented by a straight line going from one relative to the other, no matter how many intermediaries there may be. As to the relationship which unites two relatives descending from a common ancestor, it is called collateral relationship: its graphic relationship is formed by an angle. The two relatives occupy the inferior extremity of the two sides and the common author is at the top. Two collateral relatives are thus not in the same line; they form part of two different lines which started from the common author, who represents the point where the junction is made; the two lines travel side by side, which fact explains the word 'collateral'; each of the two relatives is, in regard to the other, in a line parallel to his own, collateralis. …

In each line relationship is counted by degrees, i.e. by generation. So the son and the father are related in the first degree; the grandson and the grandfather in the second degree, and so on.


Method of calculation of relatives in the direct line is easy.: there are as many degrees as there are generations going from one relative to the other.

When it comes to collateral relationship there are two ways of computation. The one used by the civil law count the number of generations in the two lines by departing from the common ancestors and by adding the two series of degrees. Thus, two brothers are related in the second degree (one generation in each branch); an uncle and his nephew are related in the third degree….in the Canon law another way is used to compute the degrees: the generations are counted only on one side. When the two lines are equal, either may be taken. When they are not equal, the longest one of the two is chosen and no attention is paid to the other. The result of this Canonical computation is that two first cousins are related in the second degree, while according to the civilian computation they are related in the fourth degree…..  

To reach to the degree of relationship between persons related in the direct line, we simply count the number of lines between them. Here, the grandfather and the grandchild are related in the third degree in the direct line.

In calculating the degree of relationship in the collateral line, there are two way, which will lead to different results.

When we look into the Ethiopian Civil Code of 1960, it does not govern how the relationship in the direct line is to be computed. Article 551 tries to give some highlight on how the computation of relationship in the direct line is to be conducted. The Amharic version of the Code states as follows 

የስጋ ዝምድና አቆጣጠር የጋራ ከሆነው የግንድ ወላጅ የዝምድና ደረጃ ጀምሮ ግራና ቀኝ ካለው ትውልድ መስመር እስከ ሰባት ትውልድ ድረስ ነው፡፡

However, this article only tells us that calculation of degree of relationship in consanguial line is to be done by taking the common ancestor as a bench mark.


Relationship by Affinity

Relationship by affinity is created as a result of marriage. 'Relatives through marriage are persons who are not relatives, but which join the family by means of a marriage.' When a marriage is concluded, the relationship is formed between one of the spouses with the blood relatives of the other spouse. The woman who marries becomes the daughter in law (by marriage) of the father and mother of the husband and the husband becomes the son in law of the mother and father of the wife. 'The two spouses are considered as being only one, so that all the relationships of the one become, by the effects of marriage, common to the other.'  One thing which needs to be noted here is the fact that the relationship created does not go beyond this. That means, a relationship does not exist between the relatives of one spouse with the relatives of the other spouse.

Relationship by Adoption

Relationship by adoption is created as a result of a special contract between the adopter and the original families of the adopted child. Unlike blood relationship, it is a fictitious relationship which resulted from the agreement of the parties to the adoption contract. However, it is also an imitation of the real relationship.


Effect of Family Relationship


There are various effects which resulted from the relationship. Relationships give rights; they also create obligations, and also carry incapacities. Hence, we can talk about three effects of a relationship: creation of rights, creation of obligations and making the related persons incapable of performing some juridical acts.


Rights emanating from a relationship:- relationship results in the right of the relatives to take the estate of the deceased relative. That is to say, a right of succession is one of the effects of a family relationship. Secondly, there is also the right of destitute relatives to get maintenance from the other relatives. Parents will also have a right over the person and the estate of their children. For instance, article 198 of the RFC provides that the obligation to supply maintenance exists between ascendants and descendants and also between persons who are related by affinity in the direct line.




Obligations emanating from relationship: there are also various obligations which will subsist among the relatives. The first obligation is that of alimony. Relatives have the obligation to provide alimony for the destitute relatives who cannot have their own means of income. Moreover, there is also the duty on the parents to take custody and raise their children. In this regard, article 219 of the RFC puts an obligation on the father and mother of the minor child to be the joint guardian and tutors during the life time of their marriage. Taking custody of children also involves making decisions in respect of the health, education as well as social contacts of the child. Articles 255 and the following articles of the RFC provide by way of obligation on the parents to take care of the health, residence, education as well as social contact of the minor child. On top of this, there may be property inherited by the child. The parents or in their absence, the ascendants will have the obligation to administer the property on behalf of the child.


Apart from the above mentioned duties and rights, relationships may also result in incapacities of the persons involved. The law prohibits marriage between close relatives. The incapacity to marry is one type of incapacity resulting from relationship. Under 32 of the RFC as well as the regional family codes relationship is provided as one essential condition for the conclusion of marriage.


Gender and Media: Media is one of the most important socializing agents. As millions of lives are being conditioned and shaped by what is heard on the radio, what is viewed on television, video and cinema films; what is read in print and what is seen on the stage. Media transmit values and attitudes that highly affect the attitude and behavior of individuals. The issue of women and media can be looked at from three perspectives: women’s portrayal, the content, and women as media consumers. The relationship between consumers and their decision making capacity, impacts on portrayal. It is a universal phenomenon that women and men are portrayed in stereotypical ways, more intensified in many developing countries. As Andersen (1988) indicated, not only are women and men cast in traditional roles, but also are omitted from roles that portray them in a variety of social context. Women tend to be portrayed in roles in which they are trivialized, condemned, or narrowly defined, resulting in the "symbolic annihilation" of women by the media. Men on the other hand, are usually depicted in high-status jobs in which they dominate women. Women are usually portrayed doing domestic chores, or appearing as sex objects and sometimes, they are presented to be selfish and cruel.


Many women do not receive information from the media.  Information is at the heart of education; information is the basis of health; information defines every aspect of production, distribution and exchange; and information defines social relationship at all levels. These days there is a fast rate of information transmission and exchange; and this is made possible because of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). ICTs are growing at a faster rate than any other technology and affecting every aspect of people’s lives. There is no doubt that such advances present tremendous opportunities for human development. ICTs have the potential to reduce poverty, empower people and facilitate the democratization process. However, it can also widen the gaps between the haves and the have-nots and between women and men. The voices and concerns of women with low or no incomes, and with limited access to education, to public institutions, and to positions of decision-making risk being further marginalized.

There are a number of constraints women encounter in accessing information, especially accessing information using ICTs. According to (Dominguez, 2001), Ethiopian women share similar constraints in accessing ICTs with women in other African countries. These include low literacy, limited access to resources and decision-making, limited or no access to computers, limited telecommunication infrastructure, unreliable telephone line, high cost of telephone calls, and lack of time. Women who have access usually use ICTs for work purposes, and not for personal growth. Even in their work women's utilization of ICTs is often limited to using e-mails. However, considering the important role ICTs play in the provision of information and reducing poverty some efforts need to be made to create access. The World space satellite radio network does not at this stage seem to assist rural Ethiopian women, because there is a missing technological link between the satellite and the rural village. Further, the initial cost of the receiver and the low rural electricity coverage and high bill is beyond the reach of the majority of Ethiopians. Ethiopian women are excluded even from conventional information sources. A good example here is the case of agricultural extension programs, where information is almost wholly transmitted to men, although women contribute substantially to agricultural production. The formation of the Ethiopian Media Women Association (EMWA), with the objectives of training and exchanging experience for capacity building is an attempt to address problems of gender and the media. Ethiopia is also a member of the East African Media women Association (EAMWA).

Socialization, as a process of transmitting culture, has been defined as consisting of “complex process of interaction through which the individual learns the habits, beliefs, skills and standards of judgment that are necessary for effective participation in social groups and communities.” Socialization is a process, which not only allows the baby to know about the basic norms of the society, but also helps in the gradual development of one’s self. Development of ‘the self’ or the ‘the ego’ comes with the help of role playing, where a child puts himself/herself in somebody’s else’s shoe and tries to get his/her self image through others’ perception. Coming to know about the ‘other’, he knows about the ‘self’. Thus the child comes to learn about the norms, expectations and different roles to be played in the group through the process of socialization. A child learns about hiss/her gender identity by learning what is s/he expected to do by others. An individual learns about his or her gender identity by knowing what s/he is not, or in other words, by learning about the other which helps in the emergence of one’s self. For instance, a male child learns to confirm to his own gender group by neglecting all activities that a girl child does. Thus, a male child becomes violent and plays hazardous games keeps way from dolls and kitchen set or else he would be branded a girl.

Socialization is a continuous process that helps one to learn the normative behavior, which mostly happens to be stereotypical behavior. The very first thing the child is socialized into is the views regarding his/her gender identity.

Socially constituted gender roles form stereotypes. A stereotype, according to the Webster’s New World’s Dictionary, (1998), is an “unvarying pattern, specifically a fixed or conventional notion or concept of a person, group, idea etc. held by a number of people and allow for no individuality or crucial judgment”. However, social psychologists define a stereotype as being a cognitive structure containing the perceiver’s knowledge, belief, and expectancies about human social group. Stereotypic behavior can be linked to the way the stereotype is learned, transmitted and changed and this is part of has socialization process.  The process of the stereotypification of gender, has a sort of biological determinism, which starts with the reproductive ability of woman. Some say for women ‘anatomy is destiny’. Women are characterized with lack, the lack of the genital. Thus they are incomplete. They stand inferior to man biologically; even physically, they are weaker. This sort of biological determinism has been used, to justify the submissive position of women. (Bhasin 2000: 10).

Individuals are converted from biological male and biological female into man and woman respectively with the process of socialization, which takes up the task of gendering individuals.

regarding socialization, Ruth Hartley (Hartley cited in Bhasin, 2000) believed socialization takes place through four processes, namely, manipulation, canalization, verbal appellation and activity exposure.

Manipulation refers to how a child is handed. Boys are taken to be strong and girls are given more feminine designation of being pretty. Such experiences on one’s physique matters in shaping the self-image and personality of boys and girls. 

The second phase canalization involves the familiarization of boys and girls with certain objects, which later shapes their perceptions, aspirations and dreams. Well, we all know that anything that is pleasurable in the childhood becomes a memory to be cherished through out one’s life. “Verbal appellation” likes “strong” for boys and “beautiful” for girls help them construct different identities. It is always strength versus beauty. The fourth process activity exposure pertains to different kinds activities, boys and girls are exposed to. Girls are asked for help by their mothers and boys usually accompany their fathers outside the house.

This is how the idea of gender is constructed and slowly permeates into the psyche of the individual. As mentioned earlier, gender is socially constructed and, so does one’s personality. It is important to note here that the basic difference between a man and a woman does not seem to have any genetic foundation. It is the result of one’s culture, which is injected into an individual through socialization process. Let us have a look at the basic differences between  a man and a woman in most societies and from where this difference springs from a psychoanalytic perspective.

Gender construction: a psychoanalytic view

The learning of gender differences in infants and the young children is centered on the presence or absence of penis. “I have a penis’ is equivalent to ‘I am a boy’ while I am a girl is equivalent to ‘I lack a penis’.

“At a very early stage, the little boy develops an object-cathexis of his mother, which is originally related to the mother’s breast…, his father by identifying himself with him. For some time, this two relationships exist side by side, until the sexual wishes in regards the mother become intense and the father is perceived as an obstacle to them; this gives rise to the Oedipus complex.

So, “in repressing the erotic feelings towards the mother and accepting the father as superior being, the boy identifies with the father and become aware of his male identity”. The father represents an all-powerful protector; the omnipotent lawmaker who yields the rod of punishment. In psychoanalytic terms, the father is the breaker of the mother-child dyad, the transcendental signifier of law, culture and language. If the boyr is at war with his father, he is at war with himself. He suffers from worthlessness and shame, and through the process of identification, he intends to internalize the voice of the torturer.


Cultural construction of masculinity and femininity

This socialization process is so strong in men and women that one can notice a deep chasm between them in terms of their perspectives, priorities in life, their dreams and aspiration and lifestyle and their ways of looking at things. ‘Human beings are not isolated atomistic individuals; they live and thrive in communities in rational units. Life is not just rules and principles but also individuals and responsibilities. And this is where the difference between man and woman lies. The feminine that is associated with woman is characterized as passive. Tenderness consideration and physical weakness are synonymous to the feminine genre. The masculine is defined as dominant and encouraging male violence against women as virile. Men are supposed to be high on strength and prowess.  Men and women have different moral orientations. Men speak the language of right and women the language of responsibility.

Right from their childhood, boys attempt to dominate and control. But girls are encouraged to be good mothers. So the first thing they do is attract a man to depend on: they are expected to be emotional, unstable, weak and talkative about their problems. They are valued for their look or smallness but not their strength and brains.

Men’s predominance in the public domain and their association with reason distanced them from talking about relationships, emotions, which is rooted in culturally construed and historically specific form of masculinity. Right from their childhood, men have been treated by their parents as independent and out going. With masked emotional dependence on women and weak skills of communication as far as feelings are concerned, men have also suffered from this gender game. Culture has made women more expressive and it also happens that their expressiveness is confused with the display of weaknesses. In order to conform to the codes of socialization meant for men, men bottle-up their emotions and eventually fail to be expressive. Culture has made them unexpressive for which they suffer from depression and have learnt to keep quite and not to talk about their problems as it is considered feminine. Their silence on problems has been mistaken for strength and courage but the truth is that it shatters them from within.

The society does not follow one single model of masculinity or femininity. However, it may boast machismo in men and there is a general notion that it is the most ideal way for men to behave, and for women to find it desirable. There are different expressions of masculinity and femininity. At the level of the society these contrasting versions are ordered in a hierarchy, which is oriented around one defining premise- the domination of men over women. That is why men take advantage from the dominant position of “hegemonic masculinity”. Some call this as “patriarchal dividend for those who benefit from it. Femininity can be of various types. The most popular and one which has been accepted as a general norm to be followed for women has been named as “emphasized femininity”. It complements the “hegemonic masculinity”. It is oriented towards accommodating the desires and interest of men, which is characterized by compliance, nurturance and empathy. It is supposed to be the embodiment of motherhood and sexual reciprocity. This type of femininity is the most prevalent image of woman.


Patriarchy and its structures


Patriarchy refers to male domination and female’s acceptance and internalization of that dominance. Its literal meaning is the supremacy of the father. In the current discourse it can be replaced with “male rule”. ‘Patriarchy may also be described as a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women.’ It is both a social structure and an ideology that perpetuates such a structure and vice-versa. Most of the institutions of the society are patriarchal in nature, regardless of whether it is the state, religion, educational institutions, family or the media. The ideology of patriarchy is so deep rooted in the society that all kinds of violence and subjugation of women appears to obvious.

Culture itself has certain demands from male and female separately. This male dominant society has looked down upon women. As indicated earlier, there exists a certain basic difference between men and women. Women tend to stress on relation ships and responsibility while men emphasize rules and rights, which make both of them different. This quality is not the matter of being inferior or superior.

Our male dominated society has frequently claimed  that the development of the child requires the mother to devote herself completely to the welfare of the child and it is the primary duty of the mother to shower all kinds of affection and care to the child. The father is not expected to carry out such duties. It does not come under the domain of man. It must be noted that motherhood is also socially constructed. Nevertheless, the patriarchal knows how to appropriate results in its favor without giving much effort.

The world of a man and a woman has been divided into two halves, forming many pairs of binary opposites. It is a world of body versus mind, nature versus culture, emotion versus reason, and private versus public. These dichotomies stand in chainto each other that shape the culturally constituted roles for men and women. This dichotomy is perpetuated by patriarchy itself.

Nature versus culture

 The male dominated society and male culture decree that dominance is the male temperament and subordination the women’s. Women were allocated domestic service and attending upon children while men did the rest. The limited role allocated to women arrested her at the biological level, which was nearer to the animal instinct. When a child is born, the mother in most cultures is usually in charge of breast feeding the baby, taking care and socializing it. Infant and children are considered a part of nature. They are unsocial zed like animals. They are unable to walk upright, they excrete without control and above all, they do not speak. Thus, infants and children are close to ‘nature’. Moreover, women with their association withinfants and children are tagged together with ‘nature’. Since men lack a natural basis meant for family orientation, i.e., they do not reproduce, the cultural reasoning seems to go that men are the ‘natural’ proprietors of religion, ritual, politics, and other realms of cultural thought. Thus men are associated with culture, i.e., the higher form of human thought involving art, religion and law.

Private versus public

These physical and social roles of women and men have extended their association with nature and culture respectively. The nature/ culture debate can further be extended to a form of private/ public dialogue which divides the roles of men and women into another dichotomy. No doubt, in our society, a gender hierarchy exists. The ideology of patriarchy remains intertwined with other social institutions. This becomes clear from the private/public realm. The private sphere popularly known as the domestic has no economic, political or historical significance. It does not contribute to one’s social life. It is tagged as the ‘personal’. The private realm stands in opposition to the public sphere. It needs to be nourished with understanding, co-operation, care, and selfness and of course bundles of emotions. The public sphere is a competitive world, which requires being aggressive, reasonable and ambitious with no trace of emotions.

Gender and workplace

With the industrial revolution came a separation between work place and home. There emerged the idea of public and private space. Prior to this, women had a considerable influence within the household due to their importance in economic production, as the house happened to be the production centre at the same time?  Due to the kind of work, they took up, Men were more exposed to the outside world, thus becoming an integral part of the public sphere due to the public sphere due to their participation in local affairs, politics and the market. But women were relegated to the domestic sphere. Mostly, jobs stand gendered. Women traditionally have been doing household works like cooking and taking care of children. Thus, certain jobs have been branded feminine and masculine. One can see occupational segregation based on gender. This refers to men and women being concentrated in different kinds of occupation. Occupational segregation has two dimensions, vertical and horizontal. “Vertical segregation” refers to the tendency of women to remain in the second position, whereas men remain in influential position. “Horizontal segregation” refers to the tendency of men and women to occupy different categories of jobs.  Women shouldered the responsibility of taking on household tasks, while men were mostly seen in jobs outside home.

Things get extremely difficult for women who are working because they have to bear the double burden of domestic work, as well as work place.

The Ethiopian society can be regarded as a “traditional, ancient and conservative one. “Horrendous” traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation, abduction, marital rape and early marriages would require an attitudinal change not only on the part of men, but also on the part of women.  Female genital mutilation, for example, has long been practiced in the country and is not unique to any religious group.  Throughout the ages, female genital mutilation, (a practice that affected some 80 per cent of the female population), had been endorsed by women.  In her view, education, the “great liberator”, would emancipate women from such harmful traditional practices. Some progress has been made despite great socio-economic, political and cultural odds. The minimum punishment for rape is five years, whereas previously it was the payment of a camel.  A new family code has been adopted by some of the regional states and a new criminal code has come into effect.  A growing grass-roots movement was working to bring women’s issues to the forefront.  Women’s rights had first been recognized as a result of their military contribution to fighting a fascist regime and further progress would only be realized by their continued hard work and toil.

Human Rights of Women: Ethiopia has ratified both the UN Charter adopted in 1948 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1949. Both these international instruments prohibit the negative discrimination of women based on their sex. The UDHR identifies targets and requires the promotion and protection of civil, political, economic, and social rights of people. Though the UDHR prohibits all forms of discrimination based on sex, an additional instrument was necessary, to accommodate the special situation and needs of women, and accelerate the process of closing the gap between men and women. Accordingly the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1981. Ethiopia ratified the convention in the same year. CEDAW outlines a variety of political, social, economic, and legislative issues that States have to work on to eliminate discrimination against women and create equality between men and women. It also reiterates that state parties will adopt the necessary measures to achieve human rights of women identified in the Convention. CEDAW also discusses a procedure for reporting and follow up of the measures states have taken in order to eliminate discrimination against women.

The Constitution adopted in 1995 by the FDRE has amplified the provisions given to women, and assures women of equal rights with men in every sphere and affirmative actions would be taken in order to remedy the sufferings of women because of past inequalities. It also reiterates the rights of women to own and administer property. It sounds women’s right to family planning services and to paid pre-and post-delivery maternity leaves. Since the ratification of the 1995 Constitution, a number of strides have been made in the past few years in amending discriminatory laws. Now the pension benefits of women civil servants is given to their survivors, maternity leave has been extended from 45 days to 3 months, and the family law has been revised. However, there is still a lot to be done. For example, women who marry foreigners are still losing their Ethiopian nationality.

Beijing Plus Five: The United Nations Fourth World Conference, held in Beijing, in September 1995 came up with the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action. The Platform showed a renewed commitment to the goals of equality, development, and peace for all women. It was divided into six chapters and identified 12 critical areas of concern that were thought to be the main barriers to the advancement of women. These were poverty, education and training, health, violence, armed conflict, economic participation, power sharing and decision-making; women focused institutions, human rights, mass media, environment, and the girl child. In October 1998, the UN Division for the Advancement of Women (UN/DAW) sent out a questionnaire to all United Nations Member States requesting a report on the implementation of the Beijing Platform. The responses showed that, except for a few isolated examples where women's lives have improved, in many cases progress has been slow.

Many of the concerns that were included in the Beijing Platform had been considered and placed at the priority list of the Ethiopian government. Attempts have been made to implement policies and proclamations aimed at bringing about gender equality though not much progress has been observed. The constraints include high illiteracy rate, deep-rooted gender stereotyped cultural beliefs and practices, and lack of resources including qualified human labor. In preparation for the Beijing Plus Five, countries the world developed ways of measuring their countries' progress for women. The UN held five preparatory meetings and at the meeting of March 2000, 'the outcome document' was produced. The document reaffirms the 12 areas of the Platform for Action, including measures to:

  • •identify violence against women as a human rights violation;

address the issue of honor killings;

  • monitor trafficking of women and condemn exploitation of women and girls for   economic and sexual purposes;
  • •respond to the impact of HIV/AIDS on the health of women and girls

internationally, particularly in Africa;

  • •expand entrepreneurship and credit availability, including micro-credit;
  • •emphasize "gender mainstreaming" in all economic policies, institutions, and resource allocations;
  • •promote women's role in conflict resolutions and peace-building, and the role of men in promoting gender equality.

The outcome document reaffirms human rights of women and the commitment of the international community to implement the Beijing Platform. Ethiopia has committed itself to take the measures included in the document. What needs to be assessed is the progress that the country is making in implementing the provisions outlined in the outcome document.

The Millennium Development Goal (MDG): The MDG is another instrument that Ethiopia ratified with the aim of reducing poverty. The goals include, among others, enabling all children, both boys and girls, in the world to complete full course of elementary school and eliminating the gender gap at all levels of education, by the year 2015. Though the goals are highly ambitious for most developing countries including Ethiopia, they would reinforce the implementation of CEDAW, Beijing Plus Five and other national instruments.

Labor Law Proclamation: The Civil Service Proclamation of January, 2002, cover issues of employment, salary, promotion, performance evaluation, training, leave and disciplinary measures. Under employment, it states that no discrimination shall be made on the basis of ethnic origin, sex, religion and political affiliation, and other grounds. In addition to this, the proclamation clearly stipulates that in the employment process, if two candidates a man and a woman have the qualification required for a position, preference will be given to the female candidate. There are also provisions given to female civil servants on maternity related issues. The proclamation states that a pregnant civil servant shall be entitled to paid leave for a medical examination before delivery if recommended by a doctor. She will also be entitled to a paid leave of 30 days before delivery and 60 days after delivery. Finally if she does not deliver on the presumed date she can get her annual leave after the 60 days of post-delivery leave. These provisions are supportive of female civil servants, but issues like training and promotion do not seem to take gender issues into account. The personnel statistics issued by the Civil Service Commission shows that, currently many of the training opportunities are utilized by men. These could be because female civil servants have less GPA upon graduation, a problem closely related to the economic, social, and cultural problems a woman encounters in attending and succeeding in education. Therefore, considering the gender related arrangement in our society, mechanisms need to be created to distribute promotions and training fairly among male and female civil servants. If gender issues are neglected in promotion and training the gender equality of the sexes that we are striving to attain will become a dream rather than reality.

Political Participation: In the Ethiopian context, for a woman to hold a key position in politics, economics, and administration is a difficult task. As a patriarchal society, the attitude of the majority of people towards women holding a high position, the way society and workplaces are structured, and the gender division of labor all poses a serious challenge. Women have a marginal position in accessing and succeeding in their education. As indicated earlier, the majority of women in the civil service are in clerical and manual jobs. Therefore, it is not surprising that we do not see many women in key positions both in politics and administration

National policies and inputs on promotion of gender equality


The Transitional Government and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia have formulated several policies to rehabilitate the social and economic infrastructure and create an environment for sustainable development. These include the economic Policy along with its strategy, the Agricultural Development Led Industrialization (ADLI), the National Policy of Ethiopian Women, the National Population Policy, the Education and Training Policy, Health Policy, Developmental Social Welfare Policy, Environmental Policy, Culture Policy, Policy on Natural Resources and Environment, and others.

One of the major policies formulated by the Transitional Government of Ethiopia was the Economic Reform Policy. The main objectives of the policy were to:

  • Øchange the centralized economy to free market economy;
  • Øincrease the participation of the people in order to increase the economic activity of the regions by giving ownership;
  • ØEnable  local industries to use local raw materials and supplies to strengthen the economy;
  • ØCreating relationship and interdependence among the various sectors, especially between agriculture and industry, so as to reduce dependency on imported raw materials and supplies;
  • Øgiving special attention to the agricultural sector since it is perceived to be the basis for the economic development

ADLI as a strategy is believed to have influence on those engaged in agriculture, which form the majority. It is considered to be the best alternative to revive and further develop the devastated economy. Productivity has to be improved in order for the agricultural sector to become both a supplier of food and raw materials for the industry, while creating a market for the output for the industrial sector. This can be accomplished by applying improved and modern way of farming, through the provision of extension services, agricultural inputs, and infrastructure and credit services to small farmers. In this endeavor, emphasis will be given to farmer with small lands holdings and to the establishment of large-scale farms, especially in the lowland areas. This way, it will be possible to get enough yields from limited farming activities and eventually transfer people from agriculture to the other sectors. ADLI also delineates the roles to be played by the government, the people, and the private sector in implementing the strategy. It also describes what needs to be done in the various areas such as industry, minerals, population growth and control, science and technology, infrastructure and social services.

One of the eight issues under the investment program is the participation of women. It indicates that women would be provided with credit services and inputs that would enable them to increase their productivity; conditions will be created and improved to enable women to attend schools and to persist in their education with a view to, improving their chance of holding decision making positions at various levels; and encouraging women's participation in modern economic activities. Though women are given some provisions in the strategy, women’s issue has not been mainstreamed in all the sectors. It is obvious that the issue of gender is central to all the sectors including education, health, population, and food security, and in fact women play an important role in agriculture, which is the main focus of the strategy. Therefore, gender needs to be mainstreamed in all the strategies and programs that will be worked out in order to realize ADLI instead of putting it as one of the issues to be taken up. The main objectives of the National Policy of Ethiopian Women include, creating and facilitating conditions for equality between men and women, creating conditions to make rural women beneficiaries of social services like education and health, and eliminating stereotypes, and discriminatory perception and practices that constrain the equality of women. A number of strategies have also been designed to achieve the above objectives, two of which are the participation of women in the formulation of policies, laws, rules and regulations, and ensuring the democratic and human right of women. The structures were clearly put delineating the responsibilities of the Women's Affairs Office (WAO) under the Prime Minister Office and the Regional and Zonal Women's Affairs Sectors, and the Women's Affairs Department (WAD) in the various Ministries. However, assessments done over the years show that both the (WAO) and the (WAD) in the sectoral ministries lack capacity: they have problems with resources and qualified personnel. In many cases WADs are marginalized and gender is not mainstreamed in many of the activities in the ministries. The structure has problems reaching the grassroots since it stops at the Woreda level, a problem that has limited the implementation of the policy.

The National Population Policy formulated in 1993 was an instrument aimed at harmonizing the rate of population growth with the capacity of the country. The Policy gives serious attention to the issue of gender and describes the important roles women play in controlling population growth. It clearly stipulates that the situation of women has direct bearings on the fertility level of any society and explains how their education, employment and the provisions in the laws given to women are related to their fertility and reproductive health. The goals, objectives and strategies give a central place to the situation and empowerment of women. The goals include raising the economic and social status of women, empowering vulnerable segments of the society such as young children and women, removing all legal and customary practices constraining women's economic and social development and the enjoyment of their rights. Many of the strategies revolve around empowering women through education, employment in both government and private sectors and eliminating cultural and legal barriers.

The Ethiopian Education and Training Policy also has some provisions given to women. One of the specific objectives in the Education and Training Policy is to introduce a system of education that would rectify the misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding the roles and benefits of female education. The policy indicates that the design and development of curriculum and books would give special attention to gender issues. It further states that equal attention would be given to female participants when selecting teachers; training them, and advancing their careers. It also  states that financial support would be given to students with promising potentials. A number of initiatives have been taken to implement the policy. For example, female teachers with less GPA than male teachers are selected and this has increased the number of female teachers in elementary schools. But a lot needs to be done at the high school level. The Women’s Affairs Department in the Ministry of Education has prepared a gender policy and it undertakes a number of activities to help close the gender gap in education. Five regions, Gambela, Benshangul-Gumuz, SNNPRA, Oromiyaa, and Somalia, are targeted because of the low enrollment and high dropout rates of girls. Capacity building of female teachers, guidance and counseling services for female students, and awareness creation in the community are some of the activities. The office also gives assertiveness training to female students at the various higher education institutes and organizes panel discussion on gender issues. Women’s focal points in regional bureaus get support from the WAD in the MOE. However, just like other WADs the office is understaffed and encounters shortage of resources.

The Health Policy was one of instruments designed by the Transitional Government of Ethiopia to improve the health status of people and to facilitate the provision of basic health services. Health is such an inter-sectoral matter that it can not be addressed by any one policy or plan of action. A statement in the health policy reflects this fact: "the government believes that health policy can not be considered in isolation from policies addressing population dynamics, food availability, acceptable living conditions, and other requisites essential for health improvement and shall therefore develop effective intersectorality for a comprehensive betterment of life".

The goal of the health policy is to restructure and expand the health care system and to make it responsive to the health needs of the less privileged rural population, which constitute the overwhelming majority of the population, and are the major productive forces of the nation. The policy supports the democratization and decentralization of the health service system, and strengthening intersectoral activities. The policy accords special attention to the health needs of the family, particularly women and children, and hitherto most neglected regions, the rural population, and pastoralists, as some of its priority areas. The implementation of public policy or government plan of action involves the translation of goals and objectives into concrete achievements through various programs.

The Health Sector Development Program (HSDP) formulated in 1996, is an implementation strategy for the National Health Policy. The Cultural Policy formulated in October 1997 views culture as incorporating the different social, economic, political, administrative, moral, religious, material and oral traditions, and practices of the various peoples and nationalities of Ethiopia. It also recognizes that for development efforts to be effective and sustainable, they have to take into considerations the cultures of people, which impact on the thinking and activities. The policy recognizes that the cultural behaviors, practices, and attitudes that support and promote stereotypes and prejudices against women, those that constrain the expansion of family planning services and the promotion of reproductive health should be slowly eliminated. Instead, situations should be created to promote the equality of the sexes. The content of the Policy clearly elaborates the unfavorable situation of women, and articulates the need for a change that ensures women's active participation in all cultural activities and guaranteeing those equal rights to the benefits. However the strategies outlined in the Policy document do not include in what ways the sector could achieve the gender equality indicated in the policy and the means to eliminate harmful practices.

The Development Social Welfare Policy was formulated by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in November 1996. The main objectives of the policy included studying the causes of social problems and designing preventive and rehabilitative programs with full participation of all stakeholders including the grassroots. The Policy acknowledges that war, famine, economic crises of the past decades have harmed vulnerable groups, i.e., women, the elderly, children, youth and the disabled, and makes these groups the Policy’s central focus. It also explains that women are underrepresented in every sphere including education, employment, politics, and other key decision making positions. It further mentions that one of the major causes of social problems is the economic dependence of women on men. However, talking about the various groups such as children, youth, elderly, and the disabled, it does not say anything about the special problems females encounter as children, parents, youth, the elderly, and the disabled, nor does it mention the measures that need to be taken to alleviate their problems. For example, such problems as harmful traditional practices that victimize female children, teenage pregnancy and abortion, the vulnerability of disabled women to various types of violence are not given attention. Community participation, partnership and coordination, capacity building of actors at various levels, advocacy and awareness creation, implementation of international conventions and other social welfare related laws, and the establishment of data bank system are outlined as some of the major strategies. The policy also articulates that the issues of gender will be mainstreamed in all programs, projects, and services in addressing the target groups mentioned in the policy.

The Federal Policy on Natural Resources and the Environment was formulated in April 1996 with the overall goal of improving and enhancing the health and quality of life of Ethiopians and to promote sustainable social and economic development through the sound management and use of natural, man-made and cultural resources and the environment as a whole to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The policy starts with a conceptual framework that contends that human resources are of great value in themselves and as creators and maintainers of natural resources have to be developed and cared for, if natural resources are to be developed and conserved. The policy gives importance to a participatory approach and the feeling of ownership in developing and conserving natural resources and an important place is given to gender.

It underlines the importance of the integration of social, cultural, and gender issues in sustainable resource and environmental management. Giving a high priority to raising the status of women by increasing female participation in the education system at all levels is indicated to be one of the strategies in the cross-sectoral issues. Increasing the number of women extension agents in natural resource and environmental management and designing programs that involve and benefit the most disadvantaged groups, particularly women, children, the disabled and the landless are considered important. The policy considers the disaggregating of data related to environment and to natural and man-made resource use and management, addressing gender issues by ensuring that energy plans adequately address fuel-wood requirement as two of the strategies in the development and conservation of biomass energy resources. In the area of mineral resource development one of the strategies is providing support to women in mineral development with special practical training and technical assistance particularly in small-scale and artisan mining. The policy gives a central place to institutionally supporting and establishing “Women in Development” desks at federal and regional government agencies concerned with natural resources development and environmental management. These desks would scrutinize projects, programs, policies, directives, rules, and regulations to ensure that gender issues are integrated. Capacity building for local communities to enable them to fully enfranchise their women, disables persons and, as appropriate, youth and children, to effectively participate in the planning and implementation of all development activities is also given importance. The policy is gender sensitive and it promotes highly the participation of vulnerable groups including women in conserving, sustaining, and managing the environment.

National Actors in Gender Equality and Competence Development In this section, only government machinery for the implementation of the women’s policy will be presented, as other national actors have been covered elsewhere in this materialt.

The Women’s Affairs Office (WAO)

The Women’s Affairs Office was established in October 1991, headed by a woman with the rank of a minister. It is charged with the responsibility of coordinating, facilitating and monitoring all government gender programs, particularly the implementation of the National Women’s Policy formulated in 1993. WAO is also responsible for creating a conducive environment for all implementations in the country.

Women’ Affairs Departments

The establishment of gender focal points in Federal ministries and regional councils is one of the main strategies for the implementation of gender and sectoral policies. It was also one of the initial activities undertaken by WAO, after the formulation of the Ethiopian National Policy on Women. The regional council women’s affairs department offices were opened up a little later.

Centre for Research Training and Information for Women in Development (CERTWID)

The CERTWID was established in 1991 with the financial assistance of UNFPA and Addis Ababa University. At the time of establishment CERTWID was placed under the Institute of Development Research. Currently, CERTWID has been upgraded and it is accountable to the office of the Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate studies. The center’s main goal is to enable women to empower themselves socially, culturally, economically and politically so as to be active participants as well as equal beneficiaries of the development process. This goal is realized through its research, training, and documentation activities. CERTWID undertakes its own research and sponsors other independent researchers and graduating BA and MA students to do their research on various issues related to gender. It also disseminates its findings through workshops and distribution of its publications for consumption by researchers, practitioners, and policy makers.

In its training component, CERTWID organizes various training workshops including gender sensitization, assertiveness, gender sensitive research methodology, and leadership. The Center's Documentation Unit serves a wide variety of patrons including Addis Ababa University staff, students, and employees of other governmental and nongovernmental organizations. It has an adequate collection of books, research reports, journals and other magazines published on gender. It can be said that CERTWID is making a great contribution in raising awareness about gender, providing information on gender issues and equipping researchers with knowledge and skills in gender sensitive research methodology. But the centre lacks human resources capacity.

Involvement of Men in Gender Equality Work

The ‘outcome document’ for the Beijing plus five contains the 12 areas of the platform “promote …. and the role of men in promoting gender equality. Gender refers to  both men and women, but is often taken to be women, because when we deal with gender the focus is on women. The reason for this is that up to the present time, it is women who suffer from the existing inequality between the sexes, and as such women have been the main actors to address the issue. This has probably brought about the feeling that gender is women’s issue to be handled by them. It is also true that, though not at a significant level, men are involved, in some instances showing more concern than some women do. In Addis Ababa, there are many consultancy firms managed by men and working on gender, including gender training, having themselves been trained. Many men make positive contributions in many forums. In some instances, especially in the rural setting, men have been seen to pose less resistance to changes that are introduced to achieve improved women’s status. The extent of men’s involvement and to what degree and in what ways they can contribute to gender equality,  is something that needs to be studied.

Poverty reduction strategy (PRS)

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) made a move in 1999 to encourage governments of low-income and heavily indebted countries to prepare poverty reduction strategies with a broad-based participation of various stakeholders. Ethiopia saw this as relevant, because poverty is deep-rooted and wide-spread, and the country seeks debt relief and plans to continue implementing economic reform programs in collaboration with the IMF and the WB. Further, PRS offers the opportunity for close dialogue between the government, the people and among the different stakeholders, contributing to improvements of the democratic process. The Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (I-PRSP) was drafted in September 2000 and submitted to the IMF and WB in November of the same year.

The aim of the interim paper was, to present a broad picture of the poverty reduction strategy that Ethiopia has pursued in recent years, and intended to refine the preparation of the PRSP. The adjustment policies that had been made in cooperation with Breton Wood Institutions had in the mid-1990s triggered Ethiopia to adopt a long-term strategy of Agricultural Development Led Industrialization (ADLI). ADLI envisages a growth process that is inherently poverty reducing, and makes it possible to assess the connection between policies and programs on the one hand and poverty reduction on the other. Generally the link between these two was indicated in the interim document by looking at the economic performances in the 1990s. The PRSP was accepted provisionally and the government offered a period of a year to prepare the PRSP. The PRSP is a tri-annually revised dynamic national strategy, with the goal of reducing poverty by 50% by 2015. The Ethiopian government invited the public to participate and subsequently launched the consultative process of the PRSP at Woreda and Regional levels in August 2001. The majority of Ethiopians live in rural areas and are engaged in farming, and thus ADLI was justified: Since poverty is worse there, it found on poverty reduction in the rural area. It is also understood that prioritization is required since PRSP cannot address each and every poverty issue.

The federal consultation was conducted at the African Conference Centre on 28-30 March 2002. Issues common for all regions were basic necessities, water, food, shelter, and health care; environmental degradation; infrastructure; capacity; peace and stability; empowerment; traditional practices that have negative impact; governance and human rights; and macro-economic stability. Interestingly all regions identified harmful tradition as being an impediment to the struggle against poverty. Secondly, good governance and human rights was an issue raised by several regions, and the need to promote and protect democracy and human rights was highlighted. 


Impact of globalization on women


Over the past two decades, globalization has created a tremendous impact on the lives of women in developing nations. Globalization can be defined as “a complex economic, political, cultural, and geographic process in which the mobility of capital, organizations, ideas, discourses, and peoples has taken a global or transnational form. With the establishment of international free trade policies, such as North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and GATT, transnational corporations are using the profit motive to guide their factories toward developing nations in search of “cheap” female labor. Corporations prefer female labor over male labor because women are considered to be “docile” workers, who are willing to obey production demands at any price. In developing nations, certain types of work, such as garment assembly, is considered to be an extension of female household roles. Therefore, cultural influences in developing nations also impacts employment stratification.

Bringing a high demand of employment opportunities for women in developing nations creates an instantaneous change within the social structure of these societies. Although the demand for female employment brings about an array of opportunities and a sense of independence, the glass ceiling continues to exist with the “feminization of poverty”. Researchers in the fields of Sociology, Anthropology, and Economics have collected empirical data that shows the consequences of globalization on the lives of women and their families in developing nations. Given these circumstances and the empirical evidence collected in the various studies, does globalization have an overall positive or negative impact on the live of women in developing nations?

The impact of globalization is different from country to country whether it is positive impact or negative impact. But the difference is highly significant between developed (industrialized) and developing countries. Its positive impacts:

  • Employment opportunities for women especially in developed countries. It has created economic and job opportunities for women at all levels.
  • Education and knowledge which constitutes a huge advancement in the empowerment of women especially in terms of sharing information.


How globalization has affected women in Ethiopia?


To look into how women are impacted by globalization, it is better to see how globalization is taken or brought to the people. It is brought by government policies or other channels. Wrong impact of globalization implies wrong utilization of the process. For example access to information may be misused by traffickers and drug dealers when poor women seeking job get information from such people. In Ethiopia there are three major constraints to women specifically and the society can generally benefit from globalization. These are:

  • lack of proper infrastructure or other communication channel
  • low level of education and
  • language barrier

There are policies guiding governments to subsidies from public service such as education and public health. In the free market system, where market controls everything, people are forced to pay for services. Applying these policies in poor countries like Ethiopia, it is the poor who are going to be affected.

An environmental crisis (climatic change) is the result of the depletion of Ozone. Climatic change, resulting flooding and drought, has affected the production system where women are in turn affected.