Zimbabwe

Top court delivers major victory for Zimbabwe’s children

 A new decision by Zimbabwe’s constitutional court (a separate chamber of the supreme court), has found sections of the criminal law unconstitutional because it completely fails to protect children aged 16 – 18 from sexual exploitation. The judgment also found sections that permit child marriage, involving children under 18, unconstitutional. The new judgment contains a harsh critique of an earlier high court decision that found the criminal law was valid, even though it did not conform to the constitution.

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Zimbabwe’s constitutional court has found that a law permitting sexual activity from age 16 is unconstitutional. This is because the constitution insists that only those over 18 should be considered adult.

Legal first for Zimbabwe as court orders damages for workplace sexual harassment

A ground-breaking judgment from the high court in Zimbabwe has held that a woman, sexually harassed at work, is entitled to damages. It is understood to be the first time that such an order has been made in Zimbabwe. The decision comes after the woman experienced sexual harassment by her employer in 2002/3. According to evidence, her whole life changed as a result of the harassment: she lost her job, her marriage broke up and her personality has changed dramatically.

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Few women would have had the staying power of the plaintiff in this case, RM. She has been fighting for many years for redress over the sexual harassment to which she was subjected and, at least in the latest case, has been acting for herself, with no lawyer appearing for her.

Fairness at divorce

Two new judgments from the courts in Kenya and Zimbabwe underline changing judicial views about the role of women in building up a family home and the contribution that women, as wives and mothers, may be said, on divorce, to have made. One stresses with new urgency that women who work in the home should stand up for their rights and, at divorce, be prepared to give evidence in court about the significance of their contribution to the home.

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Women facing divorce settlements are often particularly vulnerable to claims that they are not entitled to equal shares of matrimonial property because their financial contributions to the property had been less than the contributions of their former husbands.

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