Drawing on the Islamic court records of Brava, a small Indian Ocean port city on the southern Benadir coast of Somalia, dating from the period 1893-1900, this essay analyzes the legal agency and economic roles of the women of Brava and sheds new light on social (especially family) relations in this town. The qāḍī’s court records give evidence of married women’s fully recognized (even if qualified) legal personhood and their full-fledged financial and economic agency. The free, married women of Brava of this period contributed fully and autonomously to the economic endeavors of their families and also interacted with non-related businessmen in and beyond Brava. They also had the legal and social capacity to defend their interests in court and to get a fair hearing in accordance with the law. Given that both Somali women’s history and East African legal history suffer from a scarcity of concrete evidence for this time-period, the aspects of everyday life in Brava that come into view in the town’s qāḍī’s court records are of great interest.
Kapteijns, L., & Vianello, A. (2017). Women’s Legal Agency and Property in the Court Records of Late Nineteenth-Century Brava. History in Africa, 1-65. doi:10.1017/hia.2017.2