Challenges and Opportunities in Inheritance Rights in Kenya

8 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2011

See all articles by Elizabeth Cooper

Elizabeth Cooper

University of Oxford - Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology

Date Written: February 1, 2011

Abstract

Several cultural groups in Kenya claim customary inheritance practices that favour males over females and Kenya’s Constitution allows customary laws to apply to matters of personal law, including property devolution. There is ongoing debate over removing this recognition in favour of a blanket principle of non-discrimination.

Kenya’s courts have ruled inconsistently on women’s rights to inherit as a result of opposing principles in the Constitution’s recognition of customary law and the provisions of the Succession Law. In the absence of legal reform, inconsistencies in the application of laws are expected to continue.

Policy debates regarding the property and inheritance rights of women in cohabitating unions (unregistered and often customary marriages) continue to divide the public, politicians, and religious and other civil society groups.

Land titles in Kenya are often solely held by men. Legal and administrative reform and oversight is required to protect multiple individuals’ interests in land holdings and therefore future inheritance claims.

Inheritance disputes are commonly arbitrated by local leaders and corruption is a major risk to the assurance of fair hearings. Procedural partnerships with local leaders and close monitoring of decentralised administrative practices are necessary to protect against corrupt and biased practices of inheritance adjudication.

Suggested Citation

Cooper, Elizabeth, Challenges and Opportunities in Inheritance Rights in Kenya (February 1, 2011). Chronic Poverty Research Centre Inheritance Working Paper Series, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1775756 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1775756

Elizabeth Cooper (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology ( email )

Oxford
United Kingdom

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