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Review succession laws to protect widows


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Experts say Law of Succession Act provides for discrimination of widows in property inheritance

Thursday June 25 2020

Land rights experts have called for review of succession laws to protect widows. 

Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and Aids (Kelin) senior program officer for women, land and property rights Ms Jessica Oluoch said the current law of Succession Act has provided a loophole for discrimination of widows in property inheritance.

“As it is, the Law of Succession Act still equates women to children when it comes to division of property upon the death of a spouse,” she said on Tuesday during a Protecting and Upholding the Rights of Widows in Kenya through Alternative Justice Systems Twitter Chat.

“This must have been informed by the contextual and patriarchal understanding of women’s rights,” she added during the virtual discussion convened by Kelin.

She urged for deliberate efforts to change social norms to safeguard their land tenure rights.
She noted  the urgency to engage the Judiciary in addressing challenges widows face in solving property disputes.

LOSE PROPERTY RIGHTS

Ms Oluoch said both formal and informal justice systems should be cognizant of widows’ vulnerabilities and strive to institute pro-poor measures to facilitate their access to justice.

Women Land Rights Officer at Kenya Land Alliance (KLA) Ms Winnie Chepkemoi, said cultural traditions remain a main challenge in protecting widows’ rights.

“Some communities regard women as children. When a husband dies, it is believed that they need a custodian and that is how they lose all their property rights,” she said.

She, however, said with proper information on succession and property rights, widows can defy the traditions and reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

CASH TRANSFER

Meanwhile, founder of Come Together Widows and Orphans Organisation (CTWOO) Ms Dianah Kamande urged the government to enroll more women in the Inua Jamii cash transfer scheme stating that they are special interest groups.

“As female heads of the households, we go through a lot of challenges to make ends meet,” she said on phone on Tuesday.
“The long-term solution is to create a widows fund for the poor and vulnerable widows in our society,” she added. 
“Widows’ rights are human rights and they must be protected.”