Using International Law to Counter Gender-discriminatory Inheritance Practices in Kenya

Jane Watiri petitioned the court to award her one half of a parcel of land that belonged to her deceased father on which she lived with her four children. Her brother objected, arguing that he had cultivated a larger portion of the land during his father’s lifetime than his sister and therefore was entitled to that larger portion. Senior Principal Magistrate H. A. Omondi found that under Kikuyu customary law, an unmarried woman like Watiri lacked equal inheritance rights because of the expectation that she would get married. Magistrate Omondi held that this customary provision discriminated against women in violation of Section 82(1) of the Kenyan Constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. It also violated Article 18(3) of the Banjul Charter and Article 15(1)-(3) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which provide for legal equality between men and women. Consequently, Magistrate Omondi awarded Watiri and her brother each an equal share of their father’s property.

Re Wachokire, Succession Cause No. 192 of 2000,

Chief Magistrate’s Court at Thika, August 19, 2002

Source: Justice Reform and Gender by Shelby Quast

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