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Historic Court Decision for Women’s Rights in Botswana

A landmark court decision on inheritance has boosted the struggle for women’s rights in Botswana. The Court of Appeal in Ramantele v Mmusi and Others upheld the right of four sisters to become heirs to their family homestead. The decision rejected the argument that under Ngwaketse customary law only sons were allowed to inherit it.

The question centered on whether daughters can inherit the family residence. Eighty-year-old Edith Mmusi and her three sisters prevailed in the case. Mmusi was challenged by her nephew, who stressed that his father was given the home by the youngest-born son. Therefore the nephew was entitled to the property, even though he never dwelled there.

Mmusi argued that she had lived in the family home and invested her own money on domestic improvements. Thus she and her three sisters should receive it.

In the unanimous decision the Court of Appeal noted that “Constitutional values of equality before the law, and the increased leveling of the power structures with more and more women heading households and participating with men as equals in the public sphere and increasingly in the private sphere, demonstrate that there is no rational and justifiable basis for sticking to the narrow norms of days gone by when such norms go against current value systems.”

Sources:

Ilsa de Lange, “Victory for Women’s Rights,” The Citizen, September 9, 2013, http://citizen.co.za/40221/victory-for-womens-rights/.

Richard Lee, “Victory For Women’s Rights in Botswana,” All Africa, September 3, 2013, http://allafrica.com/stories/201309040359.html.

Student Researcher: Wakaria Neely (Florida Atlantic University)
Faculty Evaluator: James F. Tracy (Florida Atlantic University)

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