Being matrilineal and matrilocal, the Bemba people believe that “children belong to the mother”. This cultural belief and practice is so resilient that even in the event of divorce men have lost paternity rights to their children. Colonisation shifted Bemba women’s status as men were forced to migrate to work in the mines on the Copperbelt, leaving women to raise children as single mothers often without support from their absent husbands. Yet, even though Bemba people believe that children belong to the mother, the responsibility of raising children was traditionally shared with the father of the child. In postcolonial Zambia, the practice of abandoning children with women without maintenance from the estranged father has continued. Further, the Bemba endorsement that children belong to their mother has also influenced urban dwellers in Zambia. This article employs an African feminist jurisprudence framework to critique this pervasive cultural belief and practice of “children belong to the mother”, arguing that it promotes male irresponsibility and acts as a social driver of increasing the numbers of absent fathers, feminization of poverty and the vulnerability of children. Furthermore, the laws favour the rights of men over women. The article concludes this Bemba matrilineal practice and the current legal system undermine efforts to promote child maintenance rights in Zambia
"Absent Fathers and Child Maintenance Rights in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia: The Dilemma of a Postcolonial Bemba Matrilineal Practice,"
Zambia Social Science Journal: Vol. 8:
1, Article 4.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/zssj/vol8/iss1/4