New marriages bill pro-women’s rights: Experts

By Fungai Jachi
THE Marriages Amendment Bill which sailed through parliament has sparked debate around the clauses of civil partnerships and bride price.
While some people have reservations, law experts and religious leaders have welcomed the clauses as a game-changer in the country’s marriage laws.
The Marriages Amendment Bill, which sailed through the lower and upper houses of parliament, repeals and replaces the Customary Marriages Act (chapter 5:07) and the Marriages Act (Chapter 5:11) but has been met with mixed feelings.
Clauses that deal with civil partnerships and bride price better known as lobola have been topical with legal experts and religious leaders, who were guests on ZBC News Online programme, ‘Inside Out’ this Thursday giving an insight into the specifics.
“The law is very specific that this couple must be living in a genuine civil arrangement. The law is not recognising one-night relationships. What the law is saying is there are rights and obligations that are there as a result of that domestic arrangement. What people have to understand is that civil partnership is not a marriage,” said Advocate Choice Damiso, a legal expert.
“From a Christian perspective, the issue of civil partnerships remains controversial but we see what the legislature is trying to do. They are trying to protect the woman who would have entered into the civil partnership when the relationship goes sour and these persons were living genuinely together,” said Pastor Davison Kanokanga, a marriage law expert.
The guests also discussed issues surrounding property rights under the new Marriages Act.
“I think the bill does not really address the issue of property rights and maybe something has to be done about that. Because now if people are married and one owns property registered in their name they are free to dispose of that property despite being married. So the bill does not really address that issue,” noted Advocate Damiso.
“This is again one area where you see the conflict of the law and religion. In Zimbabwe, our marriages are out of community of property and one goes into marriage thinking all these assets are ours notwithstanding the fact that the assets will be registered in one person’s name,” concurred Pastor Kanokanga.
The alignment of laws to the constitution has been a priority for the Second Republic to keep abreast with international standards.