Court: Women Don’t Have To Wait After Divorce

February 22, 2008

Costa Rica’s

Constitutional Court

has struck down a law that obliged women – but not men – to wait 300 days after a divorce before they could remarry.

By coincidence, the decision was made on Feb. 14 – Valentine’s Day.

Article 16, section 2 of the Family Code said that women must comply with the 300-day rule before taking a new husband unless two medical doctors confirm that she is not pregnant, or if she gives birth within the time period.

The law was originally intended as a way of protecting fathers’ parental rights.

However, by a majority verdict, the court agreed with lawyer Kattia Umaña, who argued the law was both unconstitutional and unnecessary.

Speaking to The Tico Times, Umaña explained that, under the law, “Once a divorce was entered into the civil register, the man could get married the following day but not the woman.”

So, because of the principle of equality in Article 33 of the Constitution, which states  that “every person is equal before the law,” the rule should not exist because it contravenes the Constitution.

In addition, she noted that the law “was also unnecessary because, although it claimed to guarantee the parentage of children, there are other absolutely failsafe methods to do that,” such as DNA testing.

Umaña said the ruling made her “very satisfied and proud” and added, “For me, it was a privilege to be able to contribute something important for the women of Costa Rica.” She said she took up the case primarily “because of my status as a woman.”

Ana Carcedo, president of the Feminist Information and Action Center (CEFEMINA), a Costa Rican nongovernmental organization dedicated to the defense of women’s rights, said that the decision marked “an important step forward.” She told The Tico Times that “this is an important advance, as it eliminates a piece of sexual discrimination that was part of national legislation.”

She added that there was still a lot of work to do to ensure equality for women, because, despite the constitutional guarantee, casual discrimination against women remains widespread in the country.

Despite last week’s ruling, Carcedo also noted that women in Costa Rica are still subject to other restrictions. Unlike many Western countries, both abortion and in vitro fertilization treatment remain illegal.

 

 

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