Watch the Courts Dance: Litigating the Right to Non-discrimination on the Ground of Sex

Published: 1/Jan/2009
Source: Equal Rights Review

By Sibongile Ndashe and Solomon Sacco


Litigating the right to non-discrimination on the ground of sex has produced mixed results in a number of African  jurisdictions. In spite of the fact that courts have looked at laws that discriminate against women with varying degrees of success, some issues such as women’s property rights continue to be the most unpredictable terrain when subject to litigation. Increasingly, in the region and internationally, courts have begun to understand that discrimination on a prohibited ground cannot be justified. This has not, however, stopped some courts from insisting that discrimination on the basis of sex can still be justified, particularly when dealing with women’s inheritance rights. It is when courts seek to justify the unjustifiable that the judicial precedent and recognised standards on non-discrimination have fallen foul of the law.

This article draws attention to selected cases in a range of African countries, highlights the forward and backward steps that courts have taken with respect to prohibiting discrimination on ground of sex and provides an overview of some of the struggles associated with litigation in this field. Part one maps out some hotspots where litigation efforts to end sex discrimination have experienced significant challenges. Parts two, three and four examine how courts have reacted to these issues in the national contexts of Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Nigeria respectively.

Download article on Equal Rights Trust website.

Themes: Discrimination, Gender, Naturalisation and Marriage
Regions: Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Nigeria
Year: 2009