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(Oct 16, 2012) On October 12, 2012, the High Court of Botswana issued a landmark decision on women's inheritance rights, for the first time according women the right to inherit a family home despite customary law practices. The court held that a tribal law that gave that right only to the youngest-born sons contravened the country's Constitution, which guarantees gender equality. Tswana custom has prescribed that the family home is inherited either by the first-born or last-born son, depending on the given tribe. (Botswana Court Grants Women Legacy Rights, PMNEWS [
In Mmusi and Others v. Ramantele and Another, Edith Mmusi and her three sisters, all over 65 years old, who live in the Mmusi family home, disputed in customary court in 2007 the claim to the home brought by their nephew. He argued that the home had been promised to his father, the women's older step-brother, who died before the inheritance was distributed, under an agreement with the women's only brother before that brother's death, and that the home should pass on to him (the nephew). The
In appealing this decision to the High Court of Botswana, the sisters argued that they had a right to inherit the family home by virtue of their having been the ones to contribute to its upkeep and expansion. (
The Attorney General, who reportedly acknowledged the discriminatory nature of the customary law, had argued that
Molefi Ramantel, the nephew who lost the case, was unhappy with the decision, declaring that it was counter to the country's culture. (Botswana Women Allowed to Inherit, BBC NEWS
The Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) joined the sisters in the suit. (About Us, SALC website (last visited Oct. 15, 2012)); Mmusi and Others v Ramantele and Another [case materials], SALC website (Apr. 17, 2000).) Priti Patel of SALC said that the decision was "a significant step forward for women's rights not only in
Gender equality has also been affirmed in the country's Vision 2016, which states that by that year "
- Author: Wendy Zeldin and Constance Johnson More by this author
- Topic: Women More on this topic
- Jurisdiction: Botswana More about this jurisdiction
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Last updated: 10/16/2012