The Outlawed section of Marriage Bill demystified

Clause 40 provides for relationships which, to make a clear distinction between them and proper marriages, have been termed “civil partnerships”. Civil partnerships are the equivalent of what would be referred to under the general law as “common law marriages”. Civil partnerships are not recognised as marriages as defined under this Bill but for the purpose of realising justice between the parties to the partnership in terms of the Matrimonial Causes Act [Chapter 5:13] upon the dissolution of the relationship.

This is the section Cabinet decided to remove from the bill ahead of it being fully debated in parliament.

The purpose of that particular section of the bill was to protect women who find themselves in long term relationships with men who would not have paid roora or made any commitment to the women’s Family. The so called ‘ small house’ which in most instances the women would contribute to property accumulation and have children but still remain unrecognised under customary law and chapter 5:11 of the marriage act.

When the principal dies…the man who in most instances is a married man, these group of women cannot claim property based on their stay with the man, despite having contributed to the material growth of the union. Customary law doesn’t recognize them as no lobola was paid or tswakirayi kuno. Chapter 5:11 does not recognise them either.

The idea behind the bill was to protect this class by giving them legal recognition in the event of the death of the man who was not their husband, but had a long term relationship with them. Acquired property and some times children born. This ‘small house’ is now a permanent feature of the Zimbabwean family unit and deserves legal protection. I believe cabinet did Zimbabwean women a great dis- service by removing this section.

The argument that it breaches our christian and cultural values is nonsense. Didn’t Solomon have concubines. Culture is dynamic and the ‘ small house’ culture is prevalent in Zimbabwe . Every man of reasonable means in Zimbabwe and indeed elsewhere maintains a ‘ small house’ which unfortunately has no legal recognition and the fact becomes more apparent upon the death of the principal – Lloyd Msipa

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