Women and Justice: Location

Domestic Case Law

Monsieur G.A. v. Dame Z. Supreme Court of Benin (1973)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Gender-based violence in general

Monsieur G.A. requested a divorce for his wife’s “desertion of the marital home.” His wife pleaded that her husband and husband’s son mistreated her and her children because they believed she had committed adultery, making it impossible for her to stay in the home. She requested damages for raising their common children alone. The first court rejected her claim for not stating a claim, and awarded her husband a divorce for her desertion of the marital home. But, the court also granted her 141,000 Fr as alimony. She appealed the case. The Court of Appeal of Cotonou (Chamber of Local Law) held that the adultery was not proven (based on rumor) and acknowledged the violence she suffered at the hands of her husband’s son. She was hence awarded 90,000 Fr in damages. Monsieur G.A. took the case to the Supreme Court. He claimed that his wife disobeyed him in refusing to follow him to a new place after he was transferred for work. He also withdrew his request for divorce and asked for his wife to return home with him. The Court relied on evidence that the husband presented himself: a letter where his mother-in-law asked him to stop his son from beating up her daughter and grandchildren. The Court held that in such a case custom rules allow the wife to leave the marital home. Moreover, the husband did not prove that he changed the conditions that drove her from their house. Consequently, the Supreme Court rejected the plaintiff’s claim, ordered him to bear costs, and finalized the divorce.