Sark gives women equal right to inherit

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The Independent Online

The women of Sark were given equal rights yesterday, after a feudal law was swept away after four centuries.

The women of Sark were given equal rights yesterday, after a feudal law was swept away after four centuries.

The right of male primogeniture on the Channel Island was ended, giving women equal rights of property inheritance, largely thanks to pressure from Frederick and David Barclay, millionaire publishers who bought the neighbouring island of Brechou in 1993.

The island comes under Sark law and the brothers wanted to ensure that the £60m castle they have had built there would be inherited jointly by David's three sons and Frederick's daughter.

Last night's vote has opened the way for even more far-reaching reform on the island, where the constitution allows men to beat their wives as long as they do not draw blood and requires landowners to have muskets ready for defence against foreign invaders.

Yet the island's belated step into the 20th century was taken not by a new democratic government, but by 52 landowners who make up the Court of Chief Pleas, Sark's governing body. A leading member of the Chief Pleas, elected deputy John Carre, said sexual discrimination on the island had been taken away.

"It was just a step that needed doing," said Mr Carre. "It was pointed out to us that we were in breach of human rights, although nobody on Sark felt that at the time."

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