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Single women to easily inherit family property

Monday October 19 2009

A proposed land policy will make it easier for unmarried women to inherit family property, including land.

The National Land Policy also explicitly prohibits one spouse from selling family land without the consent of the other.

In the 2005 national referendum on a proposed constitution, some Kenyans voted against the draft law, arguing that it allowed women to inherit land, contrary to their customs.

Women’s rights

However, this time, people will not be given a choice on the matter.

“The government will put in place appropriate legislation to ensure effective protection of women’s rights to land and related resources,” says the draft policy, which Lands minister James Orengo is expected to table in Parliament next month.

It will further secure “inheritance rights of unmarried daughters in line with the practices of the respective communities” through public awareness campaigns.

The campaigns, according to the draft, will be focusing on need by parents to write wills to protect their unmarried daughters and dependants in the event of death.

It will also be aimed at encouraging people to abandon the cultural practices that bar women from inheriting family land.

Mr Orengo said last week that his ministry was preparing a sessional paper on the draft to table it before the august House when it resumes on November 10.

Family laws

MPs who are members of parliamentary committee on Land and Natural Resources promised to ensure that the draft becomes law.

Kenya like most other African countries, lacks gender sensitive family laws. And this discriminates against women in relation to land ownership and inheritance.

In most communities, women who fail to get married, and get children out of the wedlock, are either forced out of the family land or compelled to live there with their children as squatters.

Women are not sufficiently represented in institutions that deal with land and their rights are not defined under communal ownership of land.