Land Rights for Women in Kenya

Kenyan women are still left behind when it comes to exercising their land right ownership under their names rather than their spouses.

Land Rights for Women in Kenya
Photo/ Courtesy

The issue of land ownership extends beyond Kenyan boundaries. Most women work a lot on lands, use the resources it comes with, but they can never control these lands because they don't have the land ownership. This is an indication that matrimonial women in this country need land ownership to be able to feed families with total control with which lands come with.

Instead of land being split between her children, a married woman can obtain land from her parents, buy and register individually or in cases of polygamous marriage, one is entitled to an equal portion of land based on the land upkeep and contribution. Women for a long time have been left behind with denials to land ownership untill the year 2013 when the matrimonial property act was passed laying an equal foundation for husband and wife.

Most women are willing to give up property in order to belong to a family or a community as this is what society highly perceives. In the end, it's always brutal when the spouse dies or calls for a divorce as many women struggle to hold on to their property. For women in Kenya, the benefit of this matrimonial property act comes when they are to fully exercise the law battle by battle and not shunned away by some community or cultural norms.

The Kenyan government five years ago passed the matrimonial property act in order to strengthen women's land rights by adding new rights to women landowners. The reinforcement of both spouses' equal rights when they own property together was also another discussion on the table. All these are barred by cultural practices and lack of awareness by the women themselves, especially in inheritance cases.

To gain access to the market and improve the living standards among women, women's land ownership should be looked into with keen interest. Customs such as the eviction of widows from her matrimonial home should be thrown out of the window by this era, which is still not the case. In rural areas of Kenya, laws are not enhanced effectively and access to justice is also limited thus these traditional practices are in place by default. Moreover, a married woman has the right to her husband's ancestral property in case the husband dies. 

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