Global Resources

Widows, AIDS, Health and Human Rights in Africa

Author: V. von Struensee
Publication Date: Jul 2004
This paper argues that widows and female children in Tanzania have traditionally been denied the right to inherit property from their husbands, even when the property was acquired during the marriage. This is further complicated by a three-part legal system consisting of customary law (law grounded in customs or traditions), Islamic law, and statutory law (law set down by a legislature). As a result, Tanzanian women and their children are often left homeless upon the death of their husbands. This discrimination persists despite Tanzania's commitment to securing equality for women under its own constitution, and under international laws and conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the African Charter on Human and People's Rights. This paper sets out the case for legal reform in Tanzania, with a focus on women's access to inheritance rights. It also argues that the issue of women's inheritance rights provides an opportunity to assess the efficacy of legislation as a tool to guarantee women's rights and change longstanding social practices.