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The Struggle for Public Recognition: Understanding Early Marriage through the Lens of Honour and Shame in Six Countries in South Asia and West Africa

Esther Miedema, Winny Koster, Nicky Pouw, Philippe Meyer and Albena Sotirova
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Esther Miedema: Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), University of Amsterdam (UvA), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Winny Koster: Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), University of Amsterdam (UvA), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Nicky Pouw: Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), University of Amsterdam (UvA), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Philippe Meyer: Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), University of Amsterdam (UvA), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Albena Sotirova: Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), University of Amsterdam (UvA), Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Progress in Development Studies, 2020, vol. 20, issue 4, 328-346

Abstract: There is a burgeoning body of research on the role of ‘shame’ and ‘honour’ in decisions regarding early marriage in different parts of the world. Conceptualizing shame and honour as idioms through which gendered socio-economic inequalities are created and maintained, we examine early marriage decisions in Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Senegal. While we acknowledge the existence of important differences between countries in terms of the nature and manifestations of shame and honour, we argue that regardless of setting, neither shame and honour, nor female sexuality and chastity can be separated from the socio-economic hierarchies and inequalities. Thus, in this article we seek to identify the cross-cutting dynamic of marriage as a means to overcome the shame associated with young single women’s sexuality, protecting family honour and social standing, and/or securing young women’s social-economic future. Building on our data and available scholarship, we question the potential of emphasizing ‘choice’ as a means of reducing early marriage and advancing women’s emancipation in international development efforts. Instead, we argue in favour of initiatives that engage with young people and caregivers on the ways in which, at grassroot levels, communities may revise narratives of respectability, marriageability and social standing.

Keywords: Early marriage; shame; honour; gender; choice; South Asia; West Africa (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:sae:prodev:v:20:y:2020:i:4:p:328-346

DOI: 10.1177/1464993420977790

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