Inheritance and Ownership of Estates by Women in Tanzania
Today, it is clearly stipulated that every person has the right to own property and to have the protection of his property as per Article 24(1) of The Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977.
Previously, women were not counted in inheritance and ownership of estates. Even laws on the area of succession suppressed their position in society as per rules under The Local Customary Law (Declaration) Order, 1963.
It was until the Bill of Rights was introduced through the fifth amendment to the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1984, was incorporated and the right to own property was made one of the rights enjoyable by every Tanzanian as per article 24 of the Constitution .
Also section 3 of The Land Act, Cap. 113 R. E 2002 and The Village Land Act, Cap, 114 R. E 2002 covers the right to own property.
After the 5th Constitution amendment of 1984, important developments have been made by courts regarding equality between man and woman over property ownership.
Today, it is clearly stipulated that every person has the right to own property and to have the protection of his property as per Article 24 (1) of The Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977.
Again, Article 24 (2), states that no one should be deprived of his property for any purpose or on account of his status and from that moment some of the laws enacted subsequent to the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania reflect the Constitutional rights over property ownership.
For example section 56 of The Law of Marriage Act, Cap 29 R. E 2002 provides that a wife can acquire, hold and dispose of property whether movable or immovable in the same manner as if it was done by her husband. The same position is stated in Section 3 (2) of The Land Act, Cap 113 R. E 2002, that every woman shall have an equal right as a man in acquiring, holding, using, and dealing with land.
But despite the legal position above, still customary rules of intestacy in Customary Law (Declaration) (No. 4) Order, 1963 is limiting inheritance by women on the basis of their gender. Under customary law, a widow is denied full inheritance of her husband's estate. She is deemed to be taken care of by her children and for daughters, they get the smallest share with some restrictions.
Laws, cases, and practices have brought about changes. It is clear now for legal practitioners to be bold on the need for changes of inheritance laws under customary law so as to accommodate developments currently prevailing in society.
Historically, women were not entitled to inherit except where there is no male child, see The Holy Bible, New International Version, Numbers 27: 1-11, Colorado, International Bible Society, If a man had no children, inheritance if his estates could go to his brothers.