‘Marriages Bill has good intentions’

File photo dated 23/04/07 of wedding rings. Ministry of Justice officials have said that tests of a new online divorce application service have gone well.

HARARE – Government’s decision to include the “civil partnership” clause in the Marriages Bill was done in good faith and was meant to protect women who fail to assert their rights upon the dissolution of unregistered unions, the National Assembly heard yesterday.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said while Government made concessions and agreed to withdraw the contentious clause, there was nothing sinister about its initial inclusion.

Minister Ziyambi said this yesterday while steering the Marriages Bill during its Second Reading stage in Parliament.

Last year, Cabinet withdrew a clause in the Marriages Amendment Bill which provided for “civil partnership” saying such a union was alien and not consistent with the country’s cultural and Christian values.

The proposed new marriage law courted controversy, with various interpretations and questions on whether it would not undermine the family unit and marriage institution.

It was also construed that the new law would empower “small houses”, a colloquial term for women in extra-marital or unrecognised unions.

“There is a problem with unregistered unions or common law partnerships which are not registered for various reasons. If they have children together and purchase property together then one or both of them contracts a registered union.

“What should happen about the care and custody of the children and how should the property of that union be distributed. We initially addressed this problem in the Bill by inserting the now discarded civil partnership union which will be removed at the committee stage,” said Minister Ziyambi.

“I assure members that there was nothing sinister about that proposal. It was an attempt in good faith to help those women stranded between marriage and non-marriages because their partners for whatever reason, could not go through the formality of registering their union as a marriage.

“Compassion with women in that predicament does not have to equate to hostilities to the marriage institution. However, to prevent the possibility that even these civil partnerships may somehow provide an excuse for our men to bypass or diminish the marriage bond, we as Government will not countenance civil partnership in the hope that some other expedient law in the near future will be devised to solve this early problem. We are open to helpful suggestions in this regard.”

Presenting a Portfolio Committee report on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, chairperson Misheck Mataranyika (Makoni South Zanu PF) said there was divided opinion during public consultations on a clause to decriminalize HIV transmission. – Herald