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Most families in Kisii still practice customary land inheritance

Kisii County Woman Representative Janet Ongera

The jurisprudence developed by the courts of law is yet to successfully help in extinguishing customary land rights among most households in Kisii.

Even as the world gears to mark Women’s International Day on March 8, stakeholders argue that families must begin to fully implement Article 40 and Article 60 of the Constitution that creates a pillar on which women’s rights to property are upheld.

Kisii County Woman Representative Janet Ongera who is also a practising advocate says land-related conflicts involving women in the community are a persistent issue that must be comprehensively addressed by the National Land Policy Formulation Processes.

In the Community, a woman’s value as a wife is largely based on her ability to bear children and this affects many widows in the fight for land security.

“Men have to swallow the bitter pill and begin to appreciate that our constitution gives women equal rights in property ownership. The courts have given directions on what ought to be done in succession matters. Those going against such rulings should be prosecuted, “said Ms Ongera.

Ongera says that several women in the community had opted to be employed as casual workers to sustain their families.

“All those in a leadership position must come out and castigate the individuals trying to undermine women rights as enshrined in the constitution. The role of the woman in the society should not be limited to working as manual workers in sugar and tea plantations,” she said.

High Court Advocate, Gideon Nyambati said that Article 60(1) of Chapter V of the constitution makes the elimination of gender discrimination and equitable access to land part of the new principles of land policy.

This is a positive feature of this new constitution and the principles of equality and social justice are woven through it,” said Nyambati.

Josephine Ombati a nominated MCA in the Kisii County Assembly pointed out that a few years ago, the first wife would be given more land than the second wife. She argues that some families could blatantly be practising the same.

“Such beliefs of seniority has continued to affect land security in many polygamous marriages. Women with sons are favoured over those with daughters.”

Philemon Onchwangi, Advocate explained that in the past, the customary inheritance system in the community required that each son receive an equal share of the land closing out daughters. Consequently, the land available for a given family is becoming smaller with each generation.

By Frank Akunga

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