A certain court case appeared in a newspaper that caught my eye about two weeks ago. The headline read “Court Orders Woman to Pay $8000 for Adultery” Upon further reading l discovered it was a case where a woman had sued another woman who was having an affair with her husband. According to Zimbabwean law the innocent spouse can recover damages for “loss of a spouse’s consortium as well as any patrimonial loss or personal injury suffered by the innocent spouse inclusive of loss of comfort, society and services.”
I find something very wrong with such a law. I , in no way do not condone adultery, but my issue with this law is that it exonerates the one who would have cheated within the marriage of complete wrong doing and lays the entire blame on the ‘lover’ alone. There is a saying that goes ‘it takes two to tango’, and so the wrongdoer within should be made liable as well.
Marriage is an agreement between two people, a contract of some sort to love each other till death do them part. If one breaches the agreement they should be considered liable just like in the case of any other contractual agreement. Therefore in such a case the party who knowingly or consciously decides to step out of his/her marriage to have an affair is the one who is primarily wrong.
In Zimbabwe although this law applies to both men and women, mostly women make use of the law and sue their husband’s ‘small house’ as they are termed. The applicant (wife) in the case l had read argued in her case that “the respondent has breached the lawfully guarded sanctity of marriage existent between applicant and her husband.” But in such a case l feel it is the man who breached the sanctity of his own marriage agreement he had made with his wife on their wedding to love her and only her alone. As evidenced in many similar precedents the law lays the blames of all wrongdoing for adultery on the lover and not the married person. In this particular story it went on to read that the applicant’s husband was still living with the accused woman at the time of the case. Even though he was aware of the case he still made the choice to continue living with his ‘lover’ but still was not to blame in any of this.
This law promotes the misdirection of anger at the wrong person and does not hold the cheating spouse accountable for the broken promises and breach of the marriage agreement. What we are left with is a society full of women and men turning against each other and unaccountable spouses because society treats them like children by justifying their actions on grounds that they cannot control themselves in the face of “temptation”. We must take a leaf out of the book of South Africa that declared adultery damages unconstitutional a few years back. It was ruled by the South African Constitutional Court judges that marriage is based on the concept of two willing parties and where the relationship breaks down it is not appropriate for the law to intervene in the parties’ intimate personal affairs. We need laws that promote accountability for actions from the appropriate party as laws are meant to do.