Source: The Citizen Daily
Cultural practices are still shutting down doors for women in Tanzania to own property, despite government’s efforts to address the issue, researchers say.

The group, usually facing increased family responsibilities, have limited access to asset ownership and land, experts say, blaming the situation on existing legal and cultural practices.

A paper by Ms Grace Kamugisha identifies some laws which discriminate women in wealth distribution especially during inheritance, a situation that defeats the government’s economic empowerment initiatives.

Basically, there are three competing legal systems out of which a court must choose from in case of a dispute of a law to govern the distribution of the estate of the deceased person which are Customary law, Islamic law and the Indian Succession Act/statutory law.

“Of these only the Indian Succession Act upholds the principles of equality and non discrimination. Customary law is the worst while Islamic law is worse if gauged with the non discrimination and equality lenses,” Ms Kamugisha argues in her report entitled “Women Economic Empowerment and the Problem of Discriminatory Inheritance Laws in Tanzania”.

According to the rules of intestate law of succession for patrillineal societies a widow has no share of inheritance in her husband’s estate if he is survived by male relatives.

In the same vein, a daughter can only inherit her father’s estate in the first degree if the deceased has left no male children, say Ms Kamugisha in her paper, handed to members of the press during the 16th Research Workshop, an annual undertaking in the calendar of the Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA).

According to the Islamic inheritance laws, a son is entitled to inherit double the amount his sister receives. Ideally, in Islam, a woman is always dependent on her husband and therefore a man receives twice due to his responsibility to his wife bearing in mind his sister will also be dependent on another man.

While such laws remain applicable to people of the concerned religious groupings, researchers Joanita Magongo and Lucia da Corta say women are increasingly becoming aggressive in their daily undertakings to the extent that they are now taking on jobs that used to be men’s.

They say women are now undertaking jobs such as cash cropping, hunting and fishing, among others, jobs that used to be men’s’ while their male counterparts remain dependent on earnings of women.

“This rise in women’s responsibility is occurring in the context of a rapid and substantial rise in costs of essentials through inflation and in MKUKUTA user fees (water, education, healthcare),” they say adding: “We conclude that through MKUKUTA and deepening liberalisation, the state has unwittingly increased women’s responsibilities (costs of basic needs, user fees for services, land costs), but has not implemented nor monitored women’s legal rights to assets necessary to meet these rising costs and move out of poverty”.

It was basing on poor laws on property ownership, they urge, that poverty increased by one million between 2001 and 2007.

According to the researcher, women’s ability to win the war on poverty is particularly severely hampered by male kin stripping assets from women upon divorce, separation or death of husband (including farms, savings, livestock, house and plots of land, husbands’ family networks).

The enforcement of women’s economic and legal rights to land has not improved, the researchers say, noting that the shares of widows (when their husbands die) and the shares of those that have been divorced are not adjudicated based on statutory law.

“Instead they are adjudicated using customary laws in (local) primary courts which are highly discriminatory – based on traditional and anachronistic gendered norm,” the reports says.

Single mothers also suffer from an important deterioration in rights/power in clan relationships (especially to social protection upon abandonment). “In short, the right to assets and to social protection has become de‐ feminised just as responsibility for family maintenance has become feminized and subject to rapid inflation,” they argu


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