In Summary
  • In a landmark ruling, the Land court in Nyeri asserts Constitutional provisions trump over customary law.

  • Maendeleo ya Wanaume national chairman Nderitu Njoka condemned the decision, saying the courts are biased in favour of women.

  • Maendeleo ya Wanawake organisation leader in Nyeri, said it promoted women’s rights to inheritance and property ownership.

A court ruling asserting that married women qualify to inherit properties of their fathers and should not be excluded during distribution has stirred debate between defenders of women’s and men’s rights.

The ruling was made by the Environment and Land Court in Nyeri, and stopped a woman from disinheriting her step-daughters. Justice Lucy Waithaka held that married daughters are also entitled to inherit their father’s estate, contrary to customary law and many traditions in the country.

POVERTY

While delivering a ruling on the distribution of the estate of Mr Ibrahim Wathuta Mbaci, who was polygamous, the judge said her verdict was based on the Law of Succession, which “disregards customary law and allows all the deceased’s children, inclusive of married daughters, whether or not maintained by the deceased prior to his death, to benefit from his estate”.

Reacting to the ruling, Ms Emma Njora, a Maendeleo ya Wanawake organisation leader in Nyeri, said it promoted women’s rights to inheritance and property ownership.

“This is a good decision,” she said. “The Judiciary should continue leading the way in discarding sections of customary law that oppress women and deny them their rights.”

She said the decision is also beneficial to men, arguing that when women inherit property from their fathers, they become economically independent of their husbands.

“Sometimes divorce is encouraged by poverty,” Ms Njora said.

But Maendeleo ya Wanaume national chairman Nderitu Njoka condemned the decision, saying the courts are biased in favour of women.

“For a long time women have been viewed as a marginalised group, but that is no longer the case. Men have become the marginalised and are now being oppressed by institutions through the law,” Mr Njoka said.

He said the courts should allow communities to uphold their customary ways of life and traditions.

EQUALLY

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