Why Marriages Bill ‘fills the gap’
As a country that recognises both civil and customary marriages, Zimbabwean legislation has to ensure that there are no gaps in the law that leave women vulnerable. However, analyst Pretty Mubaiwa notes that numerous opportunities to advance the protection of women through legal mechanisms are often missed because of marked disagreements between women’s rights groups, law-making bodies and other organisations. Writing in the Mail & Guardian, she says this is the case with the Marriages Bill, which sought to replace the Customary Marriages Act and the Marriage Act. ‘This Bill presents an opportunity to reconcile the ambiguity and gaps that the two laws have. But Parliament failed to debate and pass this Bill before the requisite time. Criticisms levelled against the Bill included its “warped” view of protecting the rights of married women; its failure to recognise queer marriages and the inequality of marriages. As a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), Zimbabwe has a legally binding obligation to domesticate its Cedaw obligations in its municipal law and take steps to “pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women”. Mubaiwa, who is a UCT PhD candidate in public law and a Canon Collins Scholar, points out that the Bill provides a positive step towards domesticating these international standards. ‘It shows progress in the recognition of gender equality, protection of the best interests of the child, recognition of consent in marriage as paramount and the recognition of the right to culture to the extent that these provisions are aligned to the Constitution.