''The native court way’’: disputes over marriage, divorce and ‘adultery’ in colonial courts in Abeokuta (Southwestern Nigeria), 1905-1960

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Abstract

This article examines surviving native court records from 1905–1957 in Abeokuta, Southwest Nigeria, to argue that what constituted marriage, marital rights, and sexual access to wives was changing readily in this period of socioeconomic and political change. In this period, Britain established the native court system, stressing African and British judges, to apply rigid ideas of native law and customs concerning marriage. Men and women—husbands, wives, lovers, fathers, uncles, aunties, brothers, sisters, and in-laws—approached the native courts to negotiate conflict over marriage, divorce, seduction, adultery, and child custody. Rather than administering rigid legal judgements of what constituted legitimate marriage, judgements rendered by these courts provided maneuverability, specifically for women to negotiate and contest marital status and relations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-56
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of West African History
Volume9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2023

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