To link to this article, copy this persistent link:
(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 [Nigeria] (October 12, 2012).)
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 Botswana as a culture was not ready for gender equality or abandonment of its customary inheritance laws. (Dube, supra.) Justice Key Dingake of the High Court expressed the view however, "that in the name of fairness and equality women should have the right to inherit property." (
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 AFRICA (Oct. 12, 2012).)
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 Botswana but in the southern Africa region, where many countries are addressing similar discriminatory laws." (Botswana Women Allowed to Inherit, supra.)
Gender equality has also been affirmed in the country's Vision 2016, which states that by that year "Botswana will have eradicated negative social attitudes towards the status and role of women [among other specified minorities] and will be free from all forms of sexual harassment." (Gender Equality, The Botswana Centre for Human Rights (Ditshwanelo) website (last visited Oct. 16, 2012).)
|Author:||Wendy Zeldin and Constance Johnson More by this author|
|Topic:||Families More on this topic|
|Jurisdiction:||Botswana More about this jurisdiction|
Search Legal News
Find legal news by topic, country, keyword, date, or author.
Global Legal Monitor RSS
Get the Global Legal Monitor delivered to your inbox. Sign up for RSS service.
The Global Legal Monitor is an online publication from the Law Library of Congress covering legal news and developments worldwide. It is updated frequently and draws on information from the Global Legal Information Network, official national legal publications, and reliable press sources. You can find previous news by searching the GLM.
Last updated: 10/16/2012