CAPE TOWN: 20 January 2023

The WLC seeks to intervene in developing the common law for women in life partnerships.

The Women’s Legal Centre Trust (WLC Trust) has brought an application to be admitted as  amicus curiae (friends of the court) in a case brought in the Western Cape High Court. The case of W v H will be heard on Friday, 20 January 2023 in Cape Town by a full bench.  

The applicant (“W”) seeks “spousal” maintenance from the respondent following the termination of their opposite sex life partnership. The applicant also seeks a declaratory order that the common law duty of support is extended to allow for maintenance claims to partners in unmarried opposite-sex permanent life partnerships applies to their circumstances, alternatively a development of the common law by the Court to allow for such a claim.

The respondent opposes the relief sought and has submitted that the applicant is incorrect in assuming there is a common law duty of support that applies to spouses on the termination of a marriage, which is capable of the “extension” she seeks.

The WLC Trust believes that this case will have wide ranging implications not only for the parties before the Court, but the millions of women who currently face discrimination in life partnerships where they are unable to negotiate and secure their rights to financial support following the termination of domestic partnerships. Since there is no legislative framework to protect these women they are far too often left destitute and vulnerable. Our submissions will therefore be focused on the need to recognize and regulate domestic partnerships and the impact non-recognition and the lack of regulation of domestic partnerships on women. Specifically the impact on their Constitutional right to equality and to be free from discrimination, their right to dignity and their right to have a dispute resolved and remedied by a Court. The failure on the part of the state to address the recognition of domestic partnerships perpetuates discrimination against women in their everyday lives.

The WLC Trust believes that is critically important to address the discrimination present in our family law to ensure equal recognition and protection of relationships and to achieve substantive equality in our country.

The Women’s Legal Centre is an African feminist legal centre that advances womxn’s rights and equality using tools such as litigation, advocacy, education, advice, research and training.

For media enquiries, contact the WLC Communications Team at

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