Attention: editors

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

There is no one definition of family in international human rights law and ‘family’ can therefore be understood as a concept with many definitions and diverse variations

Family means different things to different people, and the failure to adopt the traditional family form of marriage may stem from a multiplicity of reasons — all of them equally valid and all of them equally worthy of concern, respect, consideration, and protection under the law.” Miron v Trudel [1995] 2 SCR 418  L’Heureux-Dube J

Family can therefore be understood as a concept with as many definitions as the diverse variations of family which exist. To this end, it is important that the law provides protection of these various forms of families, by invoking the right to family.

The domestic law in many countries, on the other hand, fail to recognise and protect women in cohabiting relationships and non-traditional family structures, which often makes these women invisible to the law.

With the family having historically been a stronghold for patriarchy for many years, the dissolution of non-traditional forms of family is often the site for impoverishment of many women.

In most countries, laws which fail to recognise and protect women in cohabitation relationships, leave women unable to claim a share to property acquired during the relationship. This failure renders women in these relationships invisible to the law.  This invisibility leads to further discrimination and women’s inequality in trying to assert their rights to own, control, and access land and property.

From the 4 – 6 May 2022, the Initiative For Strategic Litigation In Africa (ISLA), will convene and in-depth seminar on ‘The Protection of Various Forms of Families and the Distribution of Property Upon Dissolution’.

The Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) is a Pan-African feminist organisation which focuses on the law within African domestic and regional courts to advance women’s human rights and sexual rights.

The 3-day seminar, to be held in Diani, Kenya from 4 – 6 May 2022 is intended to develop legal strategies to advance the protection of woman’s legal right to material resources, such as land, housing, or property, specifically as these are affected by  questions of family, religious and customary law, and practice.

For more information, please contact:

Lesego Nchunga

Women’s Socio-economic Rights Lawyer