Women’s Institute for Leadership and Development (WILD) facilitated The Public Opinion Space which was conducted through a WhatsApp group Chat. The discussion shed light on the implications particularly on women of the high court ruling which will enable husbands to be granted a lobola refund in a situation where his wife commits adultery. The discussion also raised awareness on customary marriage rights and what they mean for women.
Facilitating the discussion, Dr Samukeliso Sibanda a legal practitioner said that the high court ruling has adverse effects on interpretation and application of customary law going forward.
“A high court ruling forms a precedent that can be used to determine future cases. Going forward when similar matters are being adjudicated, the same judgements must follow and cascade to the lower courts. However, traditional leaders always had a problem with the way formal courts determine cases involving customary law as they rarely seek the particular customs from where the parties come from. This judgement will cause conflict especially in the courts of traditional leaders,” said Dr Sibanda.
Dr Sibanda went on to add that the judgement has adverse effects on the status of women in an era where efforts are being made in advancing gender equality and balance.
“This judgement has an effect on the way that women are viewed. The lobola custom has been commodified to the extent that we are now dealing with a scenario where women are being objectified. This is retrogressive as we are fighting for gender equality and women’s right. This judgement has a potential to destroy all the gains that have been made over the years in elevating the status of women,” added Dr Sibanda.
Brilliant Bimhah, a gender activist, who participated in the meeting also shared the same sentiments that this judgement is retrogressive in the work that has been done in advancing women’s rights.
“The worst part is that at a time where we are trying to scaffold the women to bring them at par with their male counterparts in terms of participation and access to resources,” added Bimhah. “The judicial system has shown how much we are still far from gender mainstreaming agendas. We need to stand up and contest this judgement as it sets out a precedent with wrong notions,” added Bimhah.
Dr Samukeliso Sibanda encouraged citizens to utilize the family structures, community and traditional leaders where issues of custom are concerned as they are better placed to understand these issues. She went on to say that in cases where the higher courts have to adjudicate these customary law cases, the courts should invite traditional leaders to appear as expert witnesses.
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