DIVORCE IN SOUTHERN CAMEROON
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1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, is the process of terminating a marriage or marital union. Divorce usually entails the cancelling or reorganizing of the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, thus dissolving the bonds of matrimony between a married couple under the rule of law of the particular country or state.
Divorce laws vary considerably around the world, but in most countries, divorce requires the sanction of a court or other authority in a legal process, which may involve issues of distribution of property, child custody, alimony (spousal support), child visitation/access, parenting time, child support, and division of debt.
In most countries, monogamy is required by law, so divorce allows each former partner to marry another person.
Divorce is different from annulment, which declares the marriage null and void, with legal separation or de jure separation (a legal process by which a married couple may formalize a de facto separation while remaining legally married) or with de facto separation (a process where the spouses informally stop cohabiting). Reasons for divorce vary, from sexual incompatibility or lack of independence for one or both spouses to a personality clash.
The only countries that do not allow divorce are the Philippines, the Vatican City and the British Crown Dependency of Sark. In the Philippines, divorce for non-Muslim Filipinos is not legal unless the husband or wife is an alien and satisfies certain conditions.
Vatican City is an ecclesiastical state, which has no procedure for divorce. Countries that have relatively recently legalized divorce are Italy (1970), Portugal (1975, although from 1910 to 1940 was possible both for civil and religious marriage), Brazil (1977), Spain (1981), Argentina (1987), Paraguay (1991), Colombia (1991; from 1976 was allowed only for non-Catholics), Andorra (1995), Ireland (1996), Chile (2004) and Malta (2011).
The ancient Athenians liberally allowed divorce, but the person requesting divorce had to submit the request to a magistrate, and the magistrate could determine whether the reasons given were sufficient.
Divorce was rare in early Roman culture but as their empire grew in power and authority Roman civil law embraced the maxim, “matrimonial debent esse libera” (“marriages ought to be free”), and either husband or wife could renounce the marriage at will. The Christian emperors Constantine and Theodosius restricted the grounds for divorce to grave cause, but this was relaxed by Justinian in the 6th century.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Unlike other areas where legislative reform has taken place, the Cameroonian Parliament has never legislated on divorce. Consequently, 57 years since Cameroon gained independence, the applicable laws in divorce matters are still those derived from the colonial era as well as customary law.
Many of the rules on divorce are archaic and discriminatory. Moreover, the current multiple systems of courts in divorce matters often generate conflicts of jurisdiction. As a result of legal pluralism in Cameroon, the law of divorce is complex, inconsistent, conflicting, overlapping and detrimental to the rights and freedom of individuals who are bound by discriminatory customary rules.
It is based on the foregoing that the researcher has embarked on this research to propose policy recommendations to address the issues raised.
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The researcher seeks to answer the following questions which can be categorized under general questions and a set of specific questions.
1.3.1 GENERAL RESEARCH QUESTION
The general question is, how effective are the laws of divorce in southern Cameroon?
1.3.2 SPECIFIC RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- What is divorce and what factors can account for it?
- What is the law regulating divorce proceedings in southern Cameroon?
- How effective are the law and institutions regulating divorce in southern Cameroon?
- What are the various challenges encountered in granting divorce in southern Cameroon?
- What policy recommendations can be made to address the issue?
1.4 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The objectives are divided into general and specific objectives
1.4.1 GENERAL OBJECTIVE
The goal of the research is to critically assess the effectiveness of the laws and institutions in granting divorce in Anglophone Cameroon.
1.4.2 SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES
- To discuss the concept of divorce and factors accounting for it.
- To examine the laws and institutions regulating divorce in southern Cameroon.
- To assess the effectiveness of the laws regulating divorce in southern Cameroon.
- To examine the challenges faced by laws and institutions.
- To make policy recommendations that can address the issues raised and proffer possible solutions on the way forward.