Women’s Inheritance Rights in Kenya

“But the court found that, where discrimination is at stake, the Constitution and human rights standards must prevail” (Rono v Rono & another).

The year is 2005. The setting is Kenya’s Court of Appeal, and a landmark case has been decided. Customary laws in Kenya concerning inheritance rights are discriminatory towards women. But Kenya’s constitution guarantees gender equality. The case that solved this conflict, Rono vs. Rono, presented sons who claimed a greater share of their father’s property than their sisters and father’s widow. The sons backed their claim with the customary laws, but the court decided to respect The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and international law. This allowed for the recognition of women’s inheritance rights.

Kenya ratified CEDAW in 1984, and followed the guidelines, like a section of Article 2: “To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women…” The achievements are clear. The United States has not moved to ratify this treaty that brings amazing change to the lives of women worldwide. The women in the case of Rono v Rono & another were not deprived of the resources to live, because CEDAW helped put an end to gender discrimination. The answer is clear, and the step is simple. Ratification will help the United States solidify the stance of a global leader, and our own discriminatory behavior. Our integrity is breaking down with this failure to ratify a successful human rights treaty.

Ask your Senators to support the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. At least half of the world’s population will thank you.

Emily, UNAiowa blogger

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