Death is viewed with fear by most sectors of society. For most women and children how-ever, there is also added fear of what happens when a loved one dies. Women have been thrown onto the streets, children drop out of school and turn into street children or indulge in transactional sex due to the fact that greedy relatives take away all the possessions left by a de-ceased parent. Men and boys too are victims but the majority of victims are women.Will writing is viewed with sus-picion and yet a properly writ-ten will can protect families from destruction of assets.Women whose names do not appear on title deeds face hard-ships in Zimbabwe. The legal situation is such that husbands whose names appear on the title deeds can sell the immov-able property to the detriment of the wife.
Putting HIV/AIDS and marriage into context: What is the problem?
The first AIDS case in Zimbabwe was identified in 1985. While initially HIV/ AIDS was not taken seriously, as its impact began to be felt, many initiatives on prevention, care and mitigation were put in place. Despite all these initiatives, HIV/AIDS continues to take its toll on Zimbabwean society. Statistics consistently point to one reality- the disproportionate effect of HIV/AIDS on women1. In many countries, marriage and women’s own fidelity are not enough to protect them against HIV infection. Among young women surveyed in Harare(Zimbabwe), Durban and Soweto (South Africa), 66% reported having one lifetime partner and 79% had abstained from sex at least until the age of 17 (roughly the average age of first sexual encounter in most countries in the world)2.
The new Zimbabwean constitution, approved in a referendum on 16 March 2013, is underpinned by values and principles of gender equality. Section 80(3) of the new constitution states that: “All laws, customs, traditions and cultural practices that infringe the rights of women conferred by this constitution are void to the extent of the infringement”. This is in recognition of the fact that despite some good laws and policies, harmful cultural practices and gender inequalities still exist in Zimbabwean society.
A number of legal provisions seek to enforce the progressive principles enshrined in the constitution. The Domestic Violence Act, the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the Customary Marriages Act and the Deceased Persons Family Maintenance Act have sought to outlaw any practices that are viewed as harmful to women such as forced virginity testing, female genital mutilation, the pledging of women and girls for purposes of appeasing spirit,
Tino Guru (not real name) paid lobola for Chipo Bira (not real name) in December 2011. They did not take the further step of having the marriage officially registered and getting a marriage certificate. Chipo became for all intents and purposes wife to Tino from the day that lobola was paid. She was and still is expected to play her role as a wife. She is recognised by the Guru family as Tino’s wife. On the other hand Tino became in the eyes of the Bira family, a son-in-law. Society at large recognises the two as husband and wife. Chipo became, “mai Guru”. The law however has a different take. Theirs is not a valid “marriage” but a union simply because it is not registered. This is ironic considering the fact that the same legal expectations from a valid marriage- love, affection, companionship, conjugal rights are also expected in the union.