18 September 2010

Zambia: Empower Women to Inherit Property, Says Legal Body

Photo: Ami Vitale/FAO
Masaai pastoralists preparing their maize harvest in Narok, Kenya.

THE Zambia Law Development Commission (ZLDC) has said women who marry under customary law should have a right to inherit property, receive support in form of maintenance and to be compensated if they get divorced or their spouses die.

ZLDC director Annette Nhekairo said in Ndola on Thursday that efforts to develop a piece of legislation to regulate marriages contracted under customary law were receiving positive response from stakeholders.

Ms Nhekairo said during the official opening of a regional stakeholders consultative workshop on the development of legislation to regulate marriages contracted under customary law at Kinsa Lodge.

She said the Government, through the Ministry of Justice, had tasked ZLDC to lead the process of developing legislation to regulate marriages contracted under customary law.

Ms Nhekairo said the on-going nationwide consultation process was yielding meaningful response from all stakeholders and expressed optimism that the move would fit with the changing needs of the Zambian society.

"The commission has adopted a consultative and participatory approach in the process, hence we undertook desk and field research in selected districts of all the nine provinces of Zambia," she said.

Ms Nhekairo said after synthesising its research findings into a working paper, ZLDC had continued consultations with key stakeholders who include the judiciary, Zambia Police Service, various Government departments, civil society and the clergy.

And Copperbelt Province Deputy Permanent Secretary, Christopher Mutembo called on ZLDC to come up with a customary marriage law that would be of general application and acceptable to all ethnic groups in the country.

Mr Mutembo said there were a lot of challenges being brought about by the customary law.

He said a number of challenges were being encountered by adjudicators, traditional leaders, marriage counsellors and the clergy when presiding over marriages contracted under customary law mainly because of lack of a statute to refer to in resolving the many issues that arise.

"I am also aware that there are various repugnant customary practices which are degrading and dehumanising.

"This process has come at a right time because there is an urgent need to identify such practices and stakeholders should make appropriate recommendations," he said.

Mr Mutembo commended the ZLDC for recognising and seeking solutions to the hardships currently being experienced by people who marry under customary law.

ZLDC is a statutory body under the Ministry of Justice established by an Act of Parliament with the aim of researching and making recommendations on anomalies that should be eliminated from the statute books and identifying new areas of the law that should be developed to respond to the changing needs of the Zambian society.

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