CABINET has approved amendments to the Family Law Act now the Family Law Amendment Decree 2012 ensuring the recognition of de-facto relationships.
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday said the amendment for de facto relationships to be recognised was recommended by the Law Reform Commission.
"Before the Family Law Act was approved, it appeared that some sort of deal had been done between women's rights groups and the government of the day where de facto relationships weren't recognised," Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
He said at the time, if a couple living in a de facto relationship or a religiously-sanctioned marriage but had yet to marry legally split up, apart from child maintenance, one of the spouses would not have the entitlements that one would normally have.
"Through its (Cabinet) approval, de facto relationships are given recognition in respect of spousal maintenance or properties issues that need to be settled as you would, if people were legally married.
"Many women who may not necessarily work and are in de facto relationship stay at home to look after children but also contribute to the buying of a house or towards the mortgage.
"If that de facto relationship ended and the house was under the husband's name, she would not have any right to the property. What this (decree) does is, it confers those rights and for the courts to have the ability to give the spouse the rights."
He said this was a breakthrough for women given the structure of Fiji's society where many women in religiously-sanctioned marriages or de facto relationships that ended did not receive what they were entitled to. Women's groups were unavailable for comments when this edition went to press last night.