In a most unusual judgment, a full bench of Namibia’s high court has spelled out its strong disagreement with a decision made 21 years ago by that country’s highest court – and has urged the presently constituted Supreme Court to reconsider its views on the matter. The case, crucial for the country’s LGB community, and for human rights more broadly, concerned two same-sex couples (both couples involved one Namibian and one non-Namibian partner) ranged against the immigration authorities. The majority in a 2001 supreme court judgment had held that same-sex relationships were deliberately not recognised by the constitution, but the high court has now said while it was bound by this decision, it could not agree with it, and urged that the Supreme Court reconsider the matter.
What does the tale of an on-again, off-again, children’s day-care centre in Seychelles have to say to readers from other legal jurisdictions? The case is apparently about how a court might approach what seems to be a valid lease that the government appears desperate to cancel. While that sounds unexceptional, here’s the catch: there are suggestions that the original deal to award the lease might have been finalised as a political favour and the government, caught out by the opposition, wanted to renege on the deal so as not to appear corrupt. Against this strained background, the judgment looks at what a court is to do about a valid lease and the government’s stratagems to have it cancelled.
A ground-breaking judgment from the high court in Zimbabwe has held that a woman, sexually harassed at work, is entitled to damages. It is understood to be the first time that such an order has been made in Zimbabwe. The decision comes after the woman experienced sexual harassment by her employer in 2002/3. According to evidence, her whole life changed as a result of the harassment: she lost her job, her marriage broke up and her personality has changed dramatically.
In a judgment that strikes a blow for women’s equality in the face of strong cultural practices, the Ugandan high court has ordered that a widow may decide where her deceased husband may be buried. This despite the wishes of the man’s family, who wanted him laid in an ancestral burial ground and who wanted the woman to be barred from in any way ‘interfering’ with the burial. Before making its decision, the court asked for expert witnesses to provide evidence about the burial traditions of the Ndiga clan. And, in its conclusion, the court urged that ordinary members of the public should be encouraged to adopt a culture of writing wills indicating their preferences about property distribution and burial preferences. The judge said this would reduce the number of cases handling burial dispute matters, and would promote peaceful relations between families.
Botswana’s apex court has upheld a high court decision decriminalising gay sex. And the country’s attorney general has issued a special media release on the subject, saying that Botswana has an impressive post-independence record of observing human rights and the rule of law. Against this background, the government will ensure the new decision in the court of appeal’s judgment is implemented.