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MBABANE- Women married in civil rites and in community of property can continue celebrating their victory when it comes to marital power.

This is so because government has withdrawn the appeal where it was challenging the judgment of the full bench of the High Court, where it struck down the provisions in the Marriage Act which give men control over the wife and her assets when married in community of property. Marital power is the right of the husband to rule over and defend his wife and to administer her goods in such a way as to dispose of them at his own will or at any rate to prevent his wife dealing with them except with his knowledge and consent. The decision by government to withdraw the appeal was communicated by Attorney General (AG) Sifiso Mashampu Khumalo yesterday.

“Government has considered withdrawing the appeal because the drafting of the Marriage Bill, which addresses most of the issues, including that of marital power, is almost complete,” said the AG. Khumalo emphasised that instead of continuing with the appeal, they would fast-track the bill. The withdrawal of the appeal means that the judgment of the full bench of the High Court stands and is of full force and effect. This means that women married through civil rites and in community of property will no longer have to seek consent from their husbands when buying or selling property because they were now equal as per the constitution of the country.

In the past, women married through civil rites were not allowed to acquire or dispose of property without the consent or knowledge of their husbands. They could also not enter into contracts or do any business without the express consent of the husband. The full bench declared common law marital power to be unconstitutional on the basis of being discriminatory against married women. “Spouses married in terms of the Marriage Act 1964 and in community of property have equal capacity and authority to administer marital property,” ordered the court. The court also struck down Section 24 of the Marriage Act No.7/1964 except for the first portion which reads: “The consequences flowing from the marriage in terms of this Act shall be in accordance with the common law as varied from time to time by any law.”

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