Supreme Court judgment that awarded a spouse 50% share of property after dissolution of marriage, even if they might not have made a direct contribution to their acquisition has raised a lot of mixed feelings amoung gender activists.

The judgment was made in the divorce matter between Govati Mhora versus Emmaculata Mhora where the former was challenging the decision by the High Court to award the respondent a 50% share of their Harare matrimonial home.

Mhona argued that his estranged wife never made any direct contribution to the acquisition of the property, but Emmaculata, represented by the Zimbabwe Women Lawyer’s Association, won the case in the ground breaking ruling.

Padare’s Men Forum national director Walter Vengesayi said his male rights lobby group supported the judgment.

“We acknowledge the historical marginalisation of women through patriarchal institutions such as the marriage where women mostly lose their agency when lobola is paid,”Vengesayi said.

“Contributions should not only be measured by financial considerations but there are other factors that should be considered especially when we look at unpaid care work and time invested in the marriage, that in most cases, allows the breadwinner to win the bread.”

Gender expert Nyasha Muzurura weighed in: “Liberal feminists sought to end the treatment of women as legal dependants on their husbands or fathers through examination of laws. “From the perspective of liberal feminism, women’s legal rights to property, including property in their own person, is the first step in the emancipation
of women.”

Harare lawyer Robert Mzira said the ruling would help reduce cases of gender-based violence.

“With this ruling, things are much better now as women can opt to move out since they will get 50% of the assets and can be able to take care of their children, even without child support.”

But Sarah Mandinyenya said: “It is only fair if you had a joint venture in buying the assets, but if your hubby found you with your assets, he should not be a beneficiary and the same applies with the wife. She should not be comfortable to inherit what she found in the possession of her husband before she was married to him.”

A gender specialist with Midlands State University, Gladys Balance said it was quite unfortunate that the realities of life did not allow for such comfort.

“The 50/50 concept of property sharing after marriage dissolution works against women given that most women are in customary marriages,” she said.

“There is no community of property regime as most property is owned separately by husbands and wives. So the protection of women property rights under such conditions is compromised. Laws should be gender sensitive and genuinely accord women equal access to property. “

She said several factors should be taken into consideration, such as age, period of marriage and immovable contributions such as time.

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