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Act not discriminatory
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
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
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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