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Guardianship Act not discriminatory
The Herald (Zimbabwe)
December 11, 2006

THE Guardianship of Minors Act is not discriminatory of women as it clearly states that the guardianship of the father over a minor child has to be exercised in consultation with the mother and the mother can apply to a court to overrule the father, Registrar-General Mr Tobaiwa Mudede has said.

Mr Mudede was responding to an application by former Harare South legislator and president of the collapsed Zimbabwe Union of Democrats, Mrs Margaret Dongo, who petitioned the High Court seeking the nullification of some sections of the Act.

Mrs Dongo sought redress from the court after she failed to get a passport for her minor child since the law allows only the father of a child to sign documents that are necessary for issuance of a passport on behalf of a minor.

In her argument, Mrs Dongo, who is married to Mr Tonderai Casper Dongo under the African Marriages Act, said the law discriminated against women, in particular, married women.

However, Mr Mudede said Mrs Dongo's interpretation of the law was incorrect.

"Section 3 of the Guardianship of Minors Act is not discriminatory as it clearly states that guardianship of the father shall be exercised in consultation with the mother and if the guardianship is contrary to the mother's wish, the mother may apply to the Judge in Chambers at the High Court," he said.

Mr Mudede said the Act did not, in anyway, prefer unmarried women to married ones.

He said the Act provided no comparison of the two groups of women.

"There is no comparison between an unmarried and a married woman as the unmarried woman is fully responsible over the welfare of her minor child whereas a married couple has to be in consultation with each other.

"This comparison is tantamount to destabilising the lives of married couples who consult each other," Mr Mudede said in an opposing affidavit.

Mr Mudede said it was common cause that women were known to abscond with minor children without the knowledge of the father and his office would only allow the mother to sign on behalf of the father when there is proof that they have consulted and agreed.

"The majority of women do not see this as a problem and the respondent's office has not encountered problems regarding section 5 of the passport form. This clearly shows that the law does not favour men," Mr Mudede said.

Zimbabwe was a sovereign state and could not make or amend its laws to suit laws of other countries.

Mr Mudede also said Mrs Dongo was not clear as to what she wanted.

"The Applicant seems not to know exactly what she wants as on one hand, the Applicant has inherited the married surname and on the other hand she wishes to have full powers over the well-being of her child who is born in wedlock," he said.

In her answering affidavit, Mrs Dongo said she was not aware that the majority of women did not have problems with the law.

"I do not know that an opinion poll had been done on this issue lately or ever. I do not agree that the majority of women have found no problem with this law.

"In any event, I have found a problem with it, and I am before this Honourable Court and ask it to judge my case as I have presented it," Mrs Dongo said.

Mrs Dongo said the issue of her using the husband's surname was irrelevant in the whole matter.

"I do not see what the use of my married surname, which, incidentally, the First Respondent's Office compels me again, to do if I am to register the births of my children at all, has to do with the issue at hand," she said.

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