Women and Justice: Keywords


Sex Discrimination Ordinance (1996)

Gender discrimination

The Sex Discrimination Ordinance (“SDO”) prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, pregnancy, and marital status. Both direct and indirect discrimination are prohibited. Direct discrimination occurs where a party treats a person “less favorably” than another person in similar circumstances, except for the attribute of sex/pregnancy/marital status. Courts use a “but for test,” asking whether the complainant would not have received the less favorable treatment but for his/her sex/pregnancy/marital status. Indirect discrimination occurs where a seemingly uniform condition is applied, but the burden disproportionately falls on a group defined by sex/pregnancy/marital status.

Companies Act (2011)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The Companies Act of 2011 enshrines in law the right of women to serve as directors of companies. According to the law, women are allowed to establish companies on their own, and the law removes the onus on women of securing spousal consent through Section 5(2), which establishes that “anything contained in the customary or common law” that pre­vents a married person from acting as promoter of a company “without his or her spouse’s con­sent” be disregarded and overridden.

Domestic Case Law

Wong Lai Wan Avril v. Prudential Assurance Co Ltd District Court (2009)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The plaintiff was an employee of the defendant along with her husband, who was her direct supervisor. The defendant fired the plaintiff’s husband. Subsequently, the defendant informed the plaintiff that because of her marital relationship with her husband, she would have to be fired too, despite the lack of any wrongdoing on her part. The defendant moved to dismiss the claim, but the Court refused to, finding that there were credible allegations of violations of the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance and the Sex Discrimination Ordinance.

Govender v. Ragavayah High Court of South Africa: Durban and Coast Local Division (2008)

Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The applicant was a woman married according to Hindu rites. Accordingly, when her husband died intestate, his parents stood to inherit his estate. The applicant sought a declaratory judgment that the word “spouse” as used in the Intestate Succession Act 81 of 1987 includes a surviving partner to a monogamous Hindu marriage. The Court granted the declaratory judgment and held that the applicant was entitled to inherit from her deceased husband.

Die aansoeker was 'n vrou wat volgens Hindoe tradisie getroud is. Haar man het intestaat gesterf en gevolglik het sy ouers die reg gestaan om sy boedel te erf.  Die applikant het 'n verklarende uitspraak aangevra dat die woord "gade" ingesluit word soos in die Intestaat se Erfreg Wet 81 van 1987, as 'n oorlewende vennoot vir 'n monogame Hindoe-huwelik. Die hof het die verklarende uitspraak toegestaan dat die aansoeker geregtig was om van haar oorlede man te erf.

Moosa N.O. and Others v. Harnaker and Others High Court of South Africa: Western Cape Division (2017)

Gender discrimination, Property and inheritance rights

The deceased was married to the second and third applicant under Islamic law. The marriage of the deceased and the third applicant was entered into before the marriage between the deceased and the second applicant. However, the deceased and the second applicant entered into a civil marriage to qualify for a home loan. Following the death of the deceased, The Registrar of Deeds, Cape Town, refused to register the title deed to the family home in the name of the third applicant. The Registrar’s refusal was premised on the meaning of the term “surviving spouse” as contemplated in terms of section 2C(1) of the Wills Act 7 of 1953 (the “Wills Act”). According to the Registrar, the only recognised surviving spouse of the deceased is the second applicant as they entered into a civil marriage. The Court declared section 2C(1) of the Wills Act unconstitutional as it does not recognise the rights of spouses married under Islamic law nor multiple female spouses married to a deceased testator in polygynous Muslim marriages.

Die oorledene is volgens die Islamitiese Wet met ‘n tweede en derde applikant getroud.  Die huwelik van die oorledene en die derde applikant is aangegaan voor die huwelik tussen die oorledene en die tweede applikant.  Die oorledene en die tweede applikant het egter ‘n siviele huwelik aangegaan om te kwalifiseer vir ‘n huislening.  Na die afsterwe van die oorledene het die Registrateur van Aktes, Kaapstad, geweier om die titel-akte van die gesinshuis in die naam van die derde aansoeker te registreer.  Die weiering van die registrateur is gegrond op die betekenis van die term “oorlewende gade” soos beoog in terme van artikel 2C(1) van die Wet op Testamente 7 van 1953 ( die “Testamente Wet”). Volgens die registsrateur is die enigste erkende oorlewende gade van die oorledene, die tweede aansoeker aangesien hulle ‘n siviele huwelik aangegaan het.  DIe hof het artikel 2C(1) van die Wet op testamente ongrondwetlik verklaar aangesien dit nie die regte van gades wat kragtens die Islamitiese wet getroud is, erken nie asook nie veelvuldige vroulike eggenote wat met ‘n oorlede testateur in ‘n poligamiese moslemhuwelik verbind is nie.

Hassam v. Jacobs NO Constitutional Court (2009)

Gender discrimination

The applicant was in a polygamous Muslim marriage. After her husband died intestate, the respondent, the executor of the deceased’s estate, refused the applicant’s claims on the basis that polygynous Muslim marriages were not legally recognised under the Intestate Succession Act. The court held that precluding the applicant from an inheritance unfairly discriminated on the grounds of religion, marital status, and gender, and was therefore inconsistent with section 9 of the Constitution. The court found that section 1 of the Intestate Succession Act was inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid to the extent that it did not include more than one spouse in a polygynous Muslim marriage in the protection afforded to “a spouse.” Accordingly, the applicant could inherit from her late husband’s estate.

Die applikant was in ‘n poligame Moslem-huwelik.  Nadat haar man intestaat gesterf het, het die respondent, die eksekuteur van die oorledene se boedel, die applikant se eise geweier op grond daarvan dat poligame Moslem huwelike nie wettiglik erken word onder die Intestate Erfreg Wetgewing nie. Die hof het bevind dat daar onbillik gediskrimineer was teen die applikant op grond van godsdiens, huwelikstatus en geslag, was dus strydig met Artikel 9 van die Grondwet.  Die hof het bevind dat Artikel 1 van die Intestate Wet strydig was met die konstitusie (Grondwet) en ongeldig is tot die mate dat dit nie meer as een gade in ‘n poligame Moslem-huwelik insluit tot die beskerming wat aan ‘n eggenoot gegee word nie.  Gevolglik kon die applikant uit die boedel van haar oorlede man erf.

Daniels v. Campbell and Others Constitutional Court (2004)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The applicant was a woman married according to Muslim rites and whose husband had died intestate. The marriage was not solemnized by a marriage officer under the Marriage Act 25 of 1961. The house in which the applicant and her husband had lived was transferred to the deceased’s estate. The applicant was told that she could not inherit from the estate of the deceased because she had been married according to Muslim rites, and therefore was not a “surviving spouse.” A claim for maintenance against the estate was rejected on the same basis. The Court held that the word “spouse” as used in the Intestate Succession Act includes the surviving partner to a monogamous Muslim marriage and that the word “survivor” as used in the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act 27 of 1990, includes the surviving partner to a monogamous Muslim marriage.

Die applikant was ‘n vrou wat volgens Moslem tradisie getroud is en wie se eggenoot intestaat gesterf het. Die huwelik is nie volgens die huwelikswet 25 van 1961 deur ’n huweliks beampte bekragtig nie. Die huis waarin die applikant en haar man gewoon het is na die oorledene se boedel oorgeplaas. Die applikant is meegedeel dat sy nie uit die boedel van die oorledene kon erf nie omdat sy getroud was volgens die Moslem tradisie en is dus nie 'n "oorlewende gade" nie. ’n Eis vir onderhoud teen die boedel is op dieselfde basis verwerp. Die hof het beslis dat die woord "gade" soos gebruik word in die Wet op Intestate Erfopvolging, die oorlewende maat van ’n monogame moslem-huwelik insluit. Die woord "oorlewende” wat gebruik word vir die Wet 27 van 1990 vir die onderhoud van oorlewende eggenote, sluit die oorlewende eggenoot in van 'n monogame Moslem huwelik

2012 (Ku) No. 984 Supreme Court of Japan (2013)

Property and inheritance rights

In this appeal, a child born out of wedlock appealed the High Court’s finding that a relevant part of the proviso to Article 900.4 of the Japanese Civil Code was not inconsistent with Article 14.1 of the Constitution of Japan, prohibiting discrimination based on race, belief, sex, social status, or lineage.  The proviso set forth that the statutory share in inheritance of a child born out of wedlock is half of that of a child in wedlock.  The Supreme Court reversed the High Court’s ruling and found that the proviso was inconsistent with Article 14.1 of the Constitution.  In making this finding, the Supreme Court took into account the changes in the following, which have been observed since 1947––the year in which the Japanese Civil Code was revised after World War II:  Japanese society, forms of family, legislative acts in foreign countries, and relevant Japanese legal frameworks.  The Supreme Court noted that, even though the system of civil marriage is strongly respected in Japanese society, society has come to accept the idea that a child should not suffer disadvantages based on a factor that she/he did not cause or could not change––whether to have been born in or out of wedlock––and that a child’s rights need to be protected and she/he must be given respect as an individual. 

In Re Estate of Lerionka Ole Ntutu (Deceased) High Court of Kenya at Nairobi (Family Division) (2008)

Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, International law, Property and inheritance rights

The sons of Lerionka Ole Ntutu filed to prevent Ntutu’s married daughters from receiving their inheritance of his estate Section 82(4) (b) of the Kenyan Constitution. Under Kikuyu customary law, only unmarried daughters were allowed an inheritance. The presiding judge held that this claim was illegitimate, stating that the law cannot deprive a person of their rights only on the basis of sex and marital status. The judge followed the precedent set by the ruling in Rono v. Rono, Kenya Court of Appeal, 2005, in circumscribing customary law to prevent violations of justice, morality, and other written law. This case marked another important step in upholding women’s rights and human rights law over harmful customary practices towards women.