Nuptiality Trends in Western Africa: a Double Standard?

Véronique Hertrich, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Kokou Vignikin, Université de Lomé
Mouftaou Amadou Sanni, Centre de Formation et de Recherche en matière de Population (CEFORP)

Western Africa is the Subsaharan area where family changes are the slowest. This is specially the rule for nuptiality trends: women’s age at first marriage is lower than elsewhere, age gap between spouses are large, polygamy is common. However recent data show a mixed picture between Sahelian and Coastal countries. Countries located in the Guinean Gulf show faster changes than the Sahelian ones, concerning first marriage patterns as well as polygamy. The paper aims to ascertain this double standard and to explore the explanation of these diverging trends. Are differentials in socio-economic development a possible explanation? What is the role of economic recession? Is there a true divergence between the countries or rather a different timing? Analysis will be done in a systematic way, using the statistical tables from the censuses and national surveys realized since the 1950s in the 15 West-African countries, ie about 120 operations.

Presented in Session 54: Economic Crisis and Gender Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa