The Girl Child, African States, and International Human Rights Law—Toward a New Framework for Action
In 1982, Samson Mangoromera Chihowa, a Zimbabwean businessman, died in testate. He was survived by his two daughters, Auxilia and Agnes, a wife “who had no children for him,”2 a father and four brothers. One day Auxilia, the elder of the two daughters, saw some people wearing her late father’s clothes. When she inquired from one of her uncles about how her father’s estate was distributed, he became hostile. Auxilia subsequently brought a claim in the community court for succession to her father’s estate. The court appointed her the in testate heiress to the estate. Auxilia’s grandfather, presumably instigated by her uncles, appealed to the provincial magistrate to set aside the order of the community court and lost. He then appealed to the Supreme Court in Harare.3 Two issues were before the Supreme Court: first, “whether the magistrate erred by confirming the decision of the community court when she knew that according to African law and custom a daughter cannot succeed to the estate of her deceased father”4 and second, whether section 3, sub-paragraph 3 of the Legal Age of Majority Act 1982, a law passed to confer majority status on Zimbabwean women of African descent who hitherto were regarded as minors, superseded African law and custom.5 Auxilia’s grandfather argued that under African law and custom, a daughter cannot be the intestate heiress to her father’s estate and that the Legal Age of Majority Act did not and could not repeal Shona custom, which provided that only male children can inherit from a male line of succession.
KeywordsState Parti Child Labor Female Child African Woman African State
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