• Service: Advisory
  • Type: KPMG information
  • Date: 12/18/2013

Women gain equitable share of property in dissolution of customary marriages  

In Zimbabwe, the livelihoods of women have been improved as a result of the Forum’s advocacy around the distribution of matrimonial property upon separation in unregistered customary law unions. Whereas before women were eligible only for proceeds directly emanating from their economic contributions, magistrates are now acknowledging their right to an equitable share of the communal property.
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Context and Theory of Change


Key elements of context


Unregistered customary law unions constitute quite a large percentage of “marriages” in Zimbabwe. This is due to the fact that there is an acceptance, by society, that once customary law procedures have been performed the parties are “married.” The Magistrate Court Act on dissolution of unions allows the courts to apply either general law or customary law. Judicial officers have no jurisdiction to deal with unregistered customary law unions. Magistrate Courts when dealing with such cases faced a number of legal issues such as monetary jurisdiction, choice of law between customary law or general law and the nature of pleas by plaintiffs. Application of customary discriminated and perpetuated an injustice against African women since upon the dissolution of an unregistered customary law union, the property acquired by the parties during the union became the property of the husband.