Fida loses battle for divorced couples to share wealth 50-50

"The government order comes after President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a campaign 'to moralise society'." /FILE
"The government order comes after President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a campaign 'to moralise society'." /FILE

The High Court has declared that couples whose marriages end in divorce are entitled to what they each contributed during the union.

Justice John Mativo, in a landmark ruling on Monday, rejected a bid for couples to share their acquisitions 50-50.

Fida had wanted section 45 (3 of the Marriage Act, that states couples should get what they contribute, declared unconstitutional.

But the judge said: "A person cannot walk into a marriage and then walk out with more than what they deserve."

He said the provision was meant to curb situations where parties to a marriage would be left to settle debts incurred during the subsistence of the marriage.

The Federation of Women Lawyers had challenged the constitutionality of Section 7 of the Matrimonial Properties Act.

The organisation had alleged the section offends Article 45 (3) of the Constitution which provides that parties to a marriage are entitled to equal rights at the start, during and at the dissolution of marriage.

Fida had also argued that the law creates unfair discrimination against women, arguing that the gender suffers most after dissolution of marriage.

The contention

was that the law was passed by Parliament despite objections.

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However, justice Mativo said claims that the law infringes on the right to property cannot succeed.

The judge said by providing that a party walks out with his or her entitlement based on his or her contribution, the section entrenches the principle of equality in marriage.

He said the law

does not offend any of the provisions

of the constitution as alleged by Fida nor does the section contradict any of the provision of the Act.

"I find and hold the the petitioner does not qualify for any of the reliefs sought. in the circumstances i dismiss the petition".

On May 12, women whose marriages break down had a reason to smile after the Supreme Court, in a precedent-setting ruling, left intact a decision giving them the right to seek payments from their ex-husbands.

The ruling was a major blow to husbands as they are now obligated to pay alimony to their estranged wives — regardless of whether the women have moved on or not.

If unchallenged by a fresh suit, the decision could potentially open the floodgates for lawsuits from women seeking upkeep.

The court had been had asked to decide whether it is discriminatory for a man to maintain his estranged wife, even when he has not sired children with her — in a case involving a couple embroiled in a matrimonial dispute.

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