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HER VISION, Tuesday, April 21, 2015

HER VISION, Tuesday, April 21, 2015

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Land

DOES A WOMAN
H AV E A

T H E H O U S E T H A T N A K A Y I M A S H U S B A N D L E F T A N D W H I C H H E R I N - L A W S W A N T E D T O T A K E A W A Y

place?

AFTER THEIR HUSBANDS DIE ,MANY


WOMEN ARE HARASSED BY RELATIVES
OF THE DECEASED WHO CLAIM FOR THE
PROPERTY OF THEIR LATE RELATIVE.
SOME WOMEN END UP WITH NOTHING.
STEPHEN SSENKAABA NARRATES
SOME OF THE ORDEALS.

O Z I T YA AT H E R H O M E I N M U K O N O

O Z I T Y A A N D H E R F A M I LY

A similar plight befell 34-year-old Ritah Nakayima of Nyenje in


was captured and, in some cases followed through to the Mukono
2011 after the death of Edward Kizito, her husband of 12 years.
Chief Magistrates Court.
Her father-in-law and his sons turned against her. They ignored
The team reviewed 119 estate administration case files at the Jinja
Ozityas story
my children claiming that they did not belong to my husband and
High Court and Mukono Chief Magistrates
I was 20 years old when I met my boyfriend. We met in Seeta.
subsequently denied them a chance to inherit their
Court, and where possible tracked the cases back to the
He worked as a butcher. I worked in a salon. After
fathers property, she says with a heavy voice.
Administrator Generals office. In total, the team conducted 13
IN HER WORDS
dating for some time, I moved into his home, a oneInstead of having Kizitos eldest son as heir to his
focus groups with a total of 118 respondents and interviewed 13
THEY FORCED
room bedsitter in Namayiba, Mukono district.
deceased father, Nakayimas father-in-law and his
individuals in positions of authority in the Government or the
ME TO SIGN A
He later told me he had a kibanja (a land tenancy
sons instead chose the deceaseds brother to be
criminal justice or estate administration process.
LAND AGREEMENT
holding) in Nakisunga, which had been given to
heir. They insulted me and threatened to sell our
The report reveals that more than 30% of widows in Mukono
GUARANTEEING THEIR
him by his mother. He built a small house there and
house and plot of land, she narrates. Not being
have been victims of property grabbing. Often times, property
CLAIM TO OWNERSHIP
we soon started living in it. It is here that he fell sick
very familiar with court processes, Nakayima
grabbing involves violence against the widows ranging from
OF MY HUSBANDS
and died. By the time of his death, he had told me
found it difficult to get justice until a Police officer
attempted murder of the victims and their children and physical
LAND
about another piece of land that had been allocated
connected her to IJM officials. Now they are
violence by the perpetrators.
to him and his siblings by his deceased father.
pursuing my case, Nakayima says.
A few months after the death of my husband, his
Grace Ozitya and Nakayimas stories are common to many
Difficult systems
brothers asked me to leave his house and they drove me off his
helpless women who lose their property to greedy relatives and
In some instances, culture has been cited as a great hindrance
land. One of them ordered me to remove all the food crops that I
are often too defenceless to negotiate their way around such tricky
to justice for women like Ozitya. This is more so in cases where
had planted on that piece of land. He did this while hurling insults
situations.
customs prevent women from possessing and owning land. Greedy
at me.
men have used such instances to deny widows their rightful
One time, a friend advised me to visit the local council chairman,
Findings
ownership to their deceased husbands property. In some cases
but the chairman demanded for sh10,000 before he could help. I
According to a study by the International
weak legislation and poor follow up from Police
pleaded with my husbands brothers to give me a little portion to
Justice Mission, a global organisation that
has let down many vulnerable women, leaving
farm and raise my children, but they refused.
protects the poor from violence, nearly 40%
them at the mercy of opportunistic property
They forced me to sign a land agreement guaranteeing their claim of women come under attack after the death
grabbers. The IJM study highlights weak laws as
to ownership of my husbands land, but I refused. I went to the
of their husbands, with more than one third of
a particularly thorny issue.
Administrator Generals office to seek redress but nothing came of
widows actually losing their home or land. The
In many cases little success is achieved in
it. They opened a file, which disappeared after some time.
report was compiled after a comprehensive
seeking justice for the affected women and
It is only after intervention of the International Justice Mission
study examined 1,806 widows and reviewed
that is mainly because of weak criminal justice
(IJM) that life got better. I got a call from someone who
187 cases closed or completed
system characterised by justice officials lack of
said they worked for IJM. They pursued my case, got
throughout Mukono district in Central
knowledge on the law, justice system officials
N E A R LY 4 0 % O F
WHAT DO YOU Uganda from 2010 to 2012.
me a lawyer and successfully defended my right to the
lack of resources and capacity to address
WOMEN COME UNDER
THINK? TWEET US
property in the courts of law. They also connected me
Over the twoyearperiod, data from
these problems coupled with widows lack
AT TA C K A F T E R T H E
to an organisation that promised to help me build a
of knowledge of their rights among several
@HER_VISION AND 86 criminal prosecutions of propertyD E AT H O F T H E I R
house 16km east of Kampala and support my children
related
case
files
at
Mukono
Town
barriers, says the 110 page study.
H
U
S
B
A
N
D
S
LET US KNOW...
in school.
Council and Naggalama Police Station
In many such cases, Police has been found

40

N A K AY I M A

SOLUTIONS
lTailored public education messages to centre on the
rights of women to inherit and own land, the existence of
the legal framework and related legal promises to protect
these rights.
lInvestment in improving service delivery of the justice
system institutions that have the legal duty to investigate
and prosecute property grabbing crimes and provide
efficient estate administration.
lEducate and equip local council leaders on the law and
procedure related to criminal reporting, succession and
estate administration.

wanting without the necessary facilities to support vulnerable


victims and in some cases without the requisite expertise to
dispose of such cases.
Weak legislation also means that many poor womens rights to
land are not catered for. The report, for instance, found that in
many cases of property grabbing, there was hardly any criminal
justice response to these crimes, leaving many widows without any
defence.
For instance, of all property grabbing cases opened between
2005-2009 and closed as of the time of the review (SeptemberNovember 2012) that could be identified, located and had sufficient
data to review, not one perpetrator was convicted of a property
grabbing crime, says the report.
The legal conundrum
Despite land and property rights for women being talked about
in key legal frameworks, very little has been done to effectively
implement them. For instance the Domestic Relations Bill, perhaps
one of the most outspoken pieces of legislation that spell out

womens rights on ownership of property, has not changed a thing.


The 2004 Land Act had an amendment which provides for
spousal consent in transactions on family land. Despite such
provisions, not much has changed.
Edmond Owor, the executive director of the Uganda Land Alliance
attributes, these issues to what he calls policy-practice gap
There are a number of laws in place. The only problem is that
these laws have remained only on paper without any effort to have
them implemented, he says. One case in point is the succession
Bill where despite providing for fair treatment of women, has yet to
be fully implemented.
Owor attributes this anomaly to lack of goodwill on the part of
the decision-makers majority of whom are men and who therefore
might be favoured by the status quo.
Men are not willing to surrender their culturally ordained
privilege to land; Owor says leading to reluctance and sometimes
sheer apathy in
expediting the law, he
explained.
Without a
significant
representation
of women on
district land board
committees and other
key decision making
organs, Owor says,
the law will continue
being skewed against
women. As long as
the land governance
structure continues
to keep the womens
voice out of matters
of their land rights, very little will change, he says.
The Police gives its take while launching the IJM report Edward
Ochom, the assistant Inspector General of Police owned up to
loopholes in law enforcement. He however said that more often
than not existing systems such as the customary land tenure
systems make expediting justice a complicated matter. He also
acknowledged poor facilities and lack of training on the part of
law enforcers but called upon all concerned stakeholders to work
together to address these problems.

There are a
number of laws
in place. The only
problem is that
these laws have
remained only on
paper without any
effort to have them
implemented.

Far reaching implications


Denying women access to land and their right to inherit it has got
far reaching implications for development not just of women but
also of society in general.
The IJM study indicates that often times loss of land and other
property by women leads to poverty and suffering. And because
land security is essential to livelihood, denial of women access
to land brings about homelessness, loss of income and other
attendant effects like malnutrition.
Land grabbing often leaves behind desperate widows and
orphans seeking justice in a justice system riddled with chronic
lack of resources and capacity to combat this rampant abuse, said
Kathryn Howard Wilkes, field officer and director International
Justice Mission, Uganda. Because land security is essential to
livelihood for most Ugandan widows, she added, land-grabbing
affects not only their homes and personal possessions, but also
their sources of food and income.
As a result they often become homeless, malnourished, driven
further into poverty, and vulnerable to further exploitation, she
said.

LAND ACT 2004


l An amendment to the Land Act in 2004 provides for
spousal consent in transaction on family land. The Act reads
in part: Any decision taken in respect of land held under
customary tenure, whether in respect of land held individually
or communally, shall be in accordance with the customs,
traditions and practices of the community concerned, except
that a decision which denies women or children or persons
with a disability access to ownership, occupation or use of any
land or imposes conditions which violate articles 33, 34 and 35
of the Constitution on any ownership, occupation or use of any
land shall be null and void.
While this is a sign of hope, Edmond Owor, ULA Executive
Director says, very little has changed in reality.

23

YOU & THE

LAW

THE RIGHT OF WOMEN TO


LAND OWNERSHIP STILL
FAR-FETCHED
In many parts of the world, women have access
to land in order to cultivate; however, there are
traditions and cultural norms which make it
difficult for women to inherit or purchase land.
This puts women in a place of dependence on
their husbands, brothers, or fathers for their
livelihood and shelter. Should there be an illness,
domestic violence, or death in the family, women
would be left landless and unable to either grow
crops for food, or rent land for profit.
Land ownership for women is a crucial form of
security and income, increasing empowerment
and decreasing poverty.
Justice Julia Sebutinde of the International
Criminal Court is credited for having spearheaded
land reforms in Malawi allowing for women to own
land without having to go through men.
According to www.un.org/africarenewal,
researchers with the International Food Policy
Research Institute (IFPRI), based in Washington,
DC, noted that the marginal nature of womens
land rights is an historical problem in Africa.
Before colonial rule, land ownership and access
took diverse forms but were largely vested in
lineages, clans and families, with male leaders
exercising day-to-day control.
Members of a particular lineage or clan would
seek rights to use land from those community
or family leaders. Except in a few communities
where inheritance passed through the mother,
land rights were typically only inherited by sons.
Women rarely had full rights to land. They were
seen as secondary claimants, through male
relatives.
In South Africa, the customary law gives black
women the status of minors and excludes them
from rights regarding children and property. If a
woman wants to acquire land, she cannot apply
for it on her own. A man must assist her. That law
still applies in rural South Africa where many in
the desolate former homelands, as the territory
was referred to under apartheid, live.
The Traditional Courts Bill,
a piece of legislation first
HAVE YOU GOT
introduced in 2008 and
A QUESTION?
intended to make traditional
EMAIL hervision@
practices legal was thrown
out of the countrys
newvision.co.ug
parliament in February. This,
after many contested the bill
enduring long hearings.
Although women in India have the legal right to
own land, very few actually do as a result of the
patriarchal practices which dominate the nation.
A study done by economist Bina Agarwal, found
that in West Bengal, prosperous families turn
destitute when the male head of the household
dies, as women are not permitted to take over
their husbands land.
Also, due to cultural tradition, the higher the
status of the woman, the less likely she is to
have any developed skills that would be useful in
finding work.
These women are forced to beg for food and
shelter once their husbands die because they have
not been allowed to gain work experience.