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Increase in number of women taking husbands to court over child maintenance

by Staff Reporter
04 Jan 2013 at 07:39hrs | Views
THE Maintenance Court housed at Tredgold Building in Bulawayo last year recorded an increase in the number of women dragging their husbands to court over the upkeep of children with 1 853 cases recorded between January and December.

According to court records, 1 399 cases had been opened in November and the number grew to 1 853 by 31 December, marking an average of between 225 and 228 cases per month towards the end of the year.

Early last year, an average of 30 cases per month were opened, but the number kept increasing as the year progressed.

Although statistics for 2011 could not be obtained, indications are that more people sought the intervention of the Maintenance Court last year.

The statistics do not include those taken to the criminal court and those heard at the Western Commonage Courts.

The increase in the number of maintenance cases has been attributed to a number of factors among them lack of responsibility by men who abandon their families, the general economic situation and the closure of industries in Bulawayo, which left thousands of workers jobless and unable to fend for their families.

A marriage counsellor from a legal organisation who spoke on condition of anonymity for professional reasons said a majority of women who have opened maintenance cases in court were girlfriends and small houses.

"It is sad that nowadays people seek the intervention of the courts in their marriage or relationships. One of the reasons is that men have stooped so low to be irresponsible and abandoning their families whenever they get money.

"This is manifested in November or December when they get bonuses and disappear from home to enjoy themselves with small houses.

"It is not surprising that a majority of the complainants are young women who are not legally married as they are girlfriends and small houses.

"Some men complain that they are no longer working because of the closure of industries and are unable to raise money needed for the upkeep of children," said the counsellor.

He suggested a need for the Government through the National Family Planning Department to encourage use of contraceptives and protection to prevent not only pregnancies but sexually transmitted diseases.

Most of the cases have been completed and the complainants have been granted monthly payment of between $30 and $900 for the upkeep of children until they are 18 years to cover food, medical and school fees expenses.

Some of the cases are taken to the criminal court when the man defaults court judgment while others are dealt with by organisations such as Musasa Project Centre and Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association and do not go to court.

No comment could be obtained from the two organisations, as they are yet to open after closing shop for the festive season.

However, in October, ZWLA offices had handled 694 cases of women seeking its services to make husbands or boyfriends play a role in the upkeep of their children.

A total of 865 women had approached ZWLA seeking divorce, which was an upsurge from 676 cases the previous year.

Some of the cases result in domestic violence where parties start fighting over sharing of property when they divorce or fail to agree on the guardianship of children.

Source - TC