Date of Award

Winter 2007

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration and Urban Studies

Committee Director

Leonard Ruchelman

Committee Member

Berhanu Mengistu

Committee Member

Steve Myran


This study is concerned with the judicial implementation of the revised family code in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The revised family code pertains to the family courts of Addis Ababa which are situated at the lower level of government structure. These courts have a public mandate and are the legitimate public forums wherein to authorize the implementation of the provisions of the code. Open-ended interviews were conducted with judges, attorneys and people affiliated with gender advocacy institutions. The results show that the revised family code contains both strengths and weaknesses. The strengths include the observation that the application of the revised family code protects the rights of women to have access to an expedited divorce process without being required to present grounds for divorce i.e., no-fault divorce. On the other hand, as this provision would tend to encourage divorce, it could also be considered as one of the weaknesses of the code; since women who have been dependent upon the income of their husbands invariably face financial hardship after divorce has taken place. This is exacerbated by the fact that the code does not contain a provision which addresses issues related to alimony or post divorce maintenance.

Further, the process of property division is lengthy and places women in a disadvantageous position, as men customarily have more access and control over available resources. Feminist and modernization theories address this concern. In the implementation process of the revised family code, family courts have been restored, but there has not been any significant change in staff placement to execute the stipulated provisions. There has not been a uniformity of judgments rendered by the courts for similar cases. This is because a particular judge may adhere strictly to the provisions of the code, while another may reinterpret the provisions of the code to take into account the interests of women and children. The advocacy campaign promoted to safeguard the rights of women by stakeholders such as the Ethiopian Women Lawyers' Association and the Addis Ababa Democratic Women's Association has created pressure that the judges would accommodate the needs of women and children in the administration of justice. This fact characterizes the implementation process of the revised family code as co-optation, i.e., accommodation of the interests of stakeholders to mitigate the resistance of potential adversaries.


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