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Supreme Court empowers women
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights)
June 04, 2010

The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that married women can now obtain passports and other travelling documents in the absence of their husbands.

Former Harare South Legislator Margaret Dongo in December 2008 sought nullification of certain provisions of the Guardianship of Minors Act, which she claimed were discriminatory against married women who were not regarded as natural guardians of their children. This Act states that the father as the only party with authority to exercise all powers of guardianship including the power to sign applications for passport and other travel documents, but in consultation with the mother of the minor child.

The High Court, however, occasionally varies on this law after parents have divorced, or when a father who does not have custody of his children neglects the children, transferring guardianship to the mother.

Justice Rita Makarau said, the issue of a parent assisting his/her child to obtain a travel document was not juristic (judicial) as the country does not have a specific law that governs the application of a passport. The Register General therefore, has no right to deny any mother the right to acquire a travel document for her child in the absence of the father.

While possession of a passport is not guaranteed in the current Constitution, the right to freedom of movement, which is constitutionally guaranteed, can only be fully enjoyed by citizens who are in possession of a passport. Justice Makarau added that having a passport does not bestow or add any rights that the citizen of Zimbabwe was entitled to before its issuance.

Other legal practitioners in support of Makarau's ruling included Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and Justice Vemanda Ziyambi, Paddington Garwe and Anne-Mary Gowora.

ZimRights applauds Ms Dongo's initiative, which has empowered the Zimbabwean mother and made many women's lives easier because most mothers were facing difficulties in obtaining passports for their children without the father's signature. As an organisation we will continue to advocate for the law to give women more rights when it comes to their children.

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