Accepted paper:

"The child is yours!" Navigating sentiments of justice in cases of paternity denial

Authors:

Jessica Johnson (University of Birmingham)

Paper short abstract:

Cases of paternity denial can evoke intense emotional responses in Malawian magistrates’ courts. This paper will explore the ways in which magistrates strive to cut through raised voices, tears, and frayed tempers in order to deliver ‘justice’.

Paper long abstract:

Cases of paternity denial can evoke intense emotional responses in Malawian magistrates' courts. From the child's purported parents and wider kin to the officials charged with assisting them in their dispute, no-one is immune to the emotional pull of the young child in need of nurture; the misery of the woman who hoped her partner would rejoice at the news of her pregnancy; the anger and betrayal of the wife whose husband is accused of fathering another women's child; or the sense of injustice carried by the man who believes himself to have been falsely accused of adultery. This paper will explore the ways in which magistrates strive to cut through raised voices, tears, and frayed tempers in order to deliver a form of justice that will, ideally, both meet with the approval of the disputants and satisfy the needs of the child. In the absence of resources for biomedical paternity testing, magistrates might employ "traditional" methods of testing for paternity and the viability of so called modern and "village" approaches feed into tense contestations over what constitutes a just response to the situation at hand.

panel P066
Sentiments of Justice in Africa: Contestations at the Intersection of Rural and Urban Imaginations