Thanks to the verdict of a progressive judge in the Botswana High Court, Justice Key Dingake, Botswana's de facto law of leaving inherited land to the closest male family member of the deceased is now up for dispute. While the nation boasts a female Attorney General, and one of southern Africa's first female parliamentary speakers, not to mention a high education rate, the legal system continued to uphold the law of assumed male inheritance for multiple reasons, among them the cost and difficulty for rural women—who were only familiar with the customary court—to access the higher level of civil court.
Dingake's key case began five years ago, when three sisters in their seventies contested a 2007 customary court ruling that left their home to a nephew, claiming that the status quo went against the equality principle outlined in Botswana's constitution. And he agreed:
"It seems to me that the time has now arisen for the justices of this court to assume the role of the judicial midwife and assist in the birth of a new world struggling to be born. Discrimination against gender has no place in our modern day society."
Accordingly, Dingake ruled in favor of the sisters this afternoon, thereby setting a precedent for other women to come to dispute in civil court and urging the government to scrap assumed male inheritance.
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