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Botwana Judges rule

Women can inherit the earth rules Botswana judgeA landmark ruling in Botswana that affords women equal property inheritance rights paves the way for unfair customary laws that favour men to be challenged across the region, campaigners said.It's been argued that Botswana had agreed to eliminate discrimination against women A progressive judge in Botswana's High Court has ruled that the practice of assumed male inheritance should be scrapped, and called for the country's government to take all other discriminatory laws off the statute books.Justice Key Dingake was hearing a case concerning three sisters whose nephew had sought to take over the family home when their father died on the grounds that he was sole surviving male relative.Ruling that the law now had to change to reflect modern times the judge said: "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."Human rights campaigners say the ruling could prompt contests around the region to customary laws, which often relegate women to the second class citizen status when it comes to access to education, property rights and financial independence.Botswana, with its careful use of diamond wealth, stable government and high education levels, has long been hailed as an example for the region.It has also produced some of southern Africa's most celebrated women including a female Attorney General, one of its first female parliamentary speakers and the human rights activist and judge Unity Dow.But like most African countries, it still has a dual legal system which sees many people, particularly in rural areas, governed by customary laws which the government, fearful of angering powerful traditional leaders, has been reluctant to tamper with.The ruling brought an end to a five-year legal battle fought by three sisters, all in their sixties and seventies, who were backed by the southern Africa Litigation Centre.They argued that a 2007 ruling by a customary court that their nephew should inherit their home, in the Kanye area, about 50 miles south of the capital Gaborone, contravened the right to equality principle enshrined in Botswana's constitution.They also argued that Botswana, under its international and regional law obligations, had agreed to eliminate discrimination against women.As the case moved into the civil courts, it was challenged by the government on the grounds that Botswana was a "culturally-inclined nation" and scrapping customary inheritance laws was not "in line with the public mood".But the sisters were supported by Justice Dingake, who is from a family of political activists and known to be one of Botswana's most progressive judges, sitting at the High Court.Two of the sisters were in court to hear the ruling and responded with cheers and smiles. "Tonight I will sleep like a baby!" 79-year-old Edith Mmusi told reporters.Priti Patel, deputy director of the southern Africa Litigation Centre, said it was a first for the region."Most customary laws are incredibly discriminatory against women," she said. "I'm hoping that we will now see more and more cases where women take the bold step to go to court over them." Aida Mokereitane, executive director of the Emang Basadi women's rights group, applauded the sisters' determination and said she hoped that the recent introduction of legal aid in Botswana would see more such cases."Our national laws are generally quite progressive but most women, particularly in rural areas, only know the customary laws and given the distance and the cost of accessing the higher courts, those are the laws they tend to follow," she said.Lauri Kubuitsile, an author and blogger in Botswana, said would be proud to see Batswana women lead the way regionally."I grew up in the States and was struck by how strong women are here," she said. "Very often they head single-parent families, or their men are away in the mines in South Africa, so they are independent and they don't sit at the back at all.

Arrests over Bingu's death Police have confirmed the arrest of six former cabinet Ministers over events surrounding Bingu's death.Former Local Government Minister Henry Mussa and former Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa are currently being taken to national police headquarters in Lilongwe which is handling the matter.DPP's Nicholas Dausi who has been arrested in Neno, is expected to join Mussa and Nankhumwa at Zalewa Roadblock on their way to Lilongwe.Former Information Minister Patricia Kaliati and Guard Commander Duncan Mwapasa have been arrested in Lilongwe.Meanwhile DPP loyalists have gathered at Southern Region Police Headquarters at Chichiri in Blantyre where DPP's Acting President Peter Mutharika has surrendered himself to police.Dpp women clad in party uniform are currrently singing anti-government songs.

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