The government of Togo has taken recent steps to protect the rights of women and minorities. One is a new penal code, adopted in November 2015 after years of advocacy by human-rights organizations, that strengthens protections against gender-based violence and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, religion, and other factors. However, the new law reinforces sanctions against people in same-sex relationships (Journal Officiel, 2015).
Another legal step forward is a law on land rights, adopted by the National Assembly in June 2018, which reconciles traditional and modern law in a statute promoting equality for women and men (Kakpo, 2018; Korolakina, 2016; LomeChrono, 2018).
Civil-society advocacy and a government program converting traditional circumcisers to economic development agents by providing them with loans and training are credited with helping reduce the prevalence of female genital circumcision (Ministère de l’Action Sociale, de la Promotion de la Femme, de la Protection de l’Enfant et des Personnes Agées, 2008; Dagban-Zonvide, 2013; 27avril.com, 2014; Réaux, 2018). According to Togo’s third Demographic and Health Survey (2013), the prevalence of excision decreases with women’s age, ranging from 10.2% among women aged 40-45 to 0.3% among girls under age 15. The prevalence of childhood marriage (before age 15) has also declined, ranging from 11.1% among women aged 45-49 to 1.9% among those aged 15-19.
Despite advances in some areas, reality remains a step behind in others. Contrary to President Faure Gnassingbé’s promise, ahead of the legislative elections of 2013, of malefemale parity, women made up only 19% of elected members to the National Assembly – the same percentage as their representation in his government (Republicoftogo.com, 2018; Assemblée Nationale Togolaise, 2015). While access to education has improved for girls, retention in school remains problematic (PASEC, 2016). And the prevalence of violence against women remains troubling: 10% of women reported having suffered physical abuse during the 12 months preceding the survey, while 4% said they experienced sexual violence. Only 7% of victims reported their abuse to authorities (Demographic and Health Survey, 2013).
In this dispatch we examine social tolerance and attitudes toward gender equality in Togo. Findings show that most Togolese express tolerant attitudes toward people of different ethnicities, religions, and nationalities, but very few extend the same tolerance toward people in same-sex relationships.
Togolese are widely supportive of gender equality when it comes to life opportunities, such as access to education and land and a fair shot at being elected to public office. But if jobs are scarce, a substantial minority would give priority to men. And most citizens think it’s better for a family if a woman is taking care of the household and children.
On a peripherally related question about strategies for reducing the country’s fertility rate, majorities endorse promoting universal education for girls and financial autonomy for women, as well as adopting a three-child limit per family.