Tanzania : Housewife Loses Property Rights Due to Maiden Name Change Without Deep Poll

A HOUSEWIFE lost her right to property that was amassed during her marriage to Mohamed Ibrahim Adam because she had changed her maiden name to that of her husband without a deed poll.

Delivering the judgement, Judge John Nkwabi of the Resident Magistrates Court, Dar es Salaam, division said the change of name by a woman after getting married was done out of habit without any legal basis. He further said this couldn’t be used as a defence when the law is broken.

The woman, Salma Abdallah Salum, got married to Mohamed Ibrahim Adam in 1993, and the husband told her to start using his name. Thus, she changed her name to Salma Mohamed Ibrahim. However, in 2019, she filed for divorce at Temeke Local Court and prayed that the court divides the property they had amassed during their sixteen years of marriage. The lower court granted Salma her wish as regards all other properties except for a house in Dodoma, for which she was given only 20 per cent. However, the husband, Mohamed Ibrahim Adam, wasn’t satisfied with the court’s decision.

He appealed the case to a higher court, Temeke District Court, disputing the award by the lower court on grounds that no attention was given by the lower court to his counterargument that he (Mohamed) had never married any woman going by the name Salma Mohamed Ibrahim. In her submission, Salma claimed that she got married while using the name Salma Abdallah Salum, and her other name was Salma Mohamed Ibrahim. Stating that after marriage, her husband told her to start using his name. In building her defence, she said that even at the Muslim Council of Tanzania, she was using her husband’s name, but the Temeke District Court overturned the verdict of the lower court.

By the ruling of the district court, Salma lost her case and her right to property that the two had gotten during their 26 years of marriage with a man she alleged was her husband. Unsatisfied with the decision of the district court, Salma appealed to the Temeke Resident Magistrates court, saying the district magistrate had erred by agreeing to arguments tendered by her husband that there was never any legal marriage between the two.

She further argued that when seeking a divorce, she had used her husband’s name, which was testimony that they were man and wife.

Salma’s lawyer, Gabriel Mnyele, argued that women tend to use their husband’s name after marriage, and as for the deed poll, which was a requirement in law, it was not easy for a housewife like Salma to know about this provision in law (deed poll). In his counterargument, advocate Alex Enock, who was representing the husband, said the decision by the district court was in order and was befitting of being held by the Resident Magistrates court.

In his judgment, the resident magistrate, Judge Nkwabi, upheld the decision of the district court stating that questions that need asking ourselves whether it’s proper for someone to change their name without a deed poll and go on to use that name without a deed poll which is a requirement by law.

« It’s the law that a person can’t break the law and come to the court of law for redress. Salma was supposed to register the change of name as required by law, » said the Judge. Judge Nkwabi further stated: « You didn’t do this or confirm that you had registered the change of name. In that case, that name (of your husband), which you adopted, isn’t recognised by law. That just can’t be referred to as the kindness of the court as Salma’s advocate had wanted the court to believe. »

Judge Nkwabi said the issue of being a full housewife can’t be used as a defence in cases where things are done outside the confines of the law. Thus, he dismissed the woman’s appeal and upheld the ruling of the district court, which had overturned the ruling of the lower court.

Janelle Browne


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