Angelique Mukakalisa, 28, a resident of Rubengera Sector, Karongi District was denied the right to inherit family property. She said her father regarded women as inferior to men and, therefore, not deserving equal consideration.
Born in a family of six, four girls and two boys, Mukakalisa said
boys got a lion’s share of the land while girls were either given a cow,
goats or smaller portions of land depending on their age.
“We were given less but never put up a fight because that is what
tradition dictates. We instead engaged mediators,”Mukakalisa said.
Mukakalisa represents millions of women who are discriminated against as a result of negative perceptions on women.
There are policies on gender balance in accessing inheritance.
However, some parents have opted to ignore them and stick to traditional
values that have given men preferential treatment.
According to a study commissioned by the Gender Monitoring Office
(GMO) in August 2011, gender disparities arise from the slow change in
attitude, and ignorance of the law on succession.
The study highlights gender inequalities in the law enacted in 1999,
especially in allocating equal distribution of inheritances.
“Most respondents said parents do not treat their children equally
when it comes to land distribution. In particular cases, male children
are often given a large portion of the land while girls are only given
domestic materials,” the report reads in part.
Despite the fact that Article 43 of the existing law guarantees equal
land rights between girls and boys, the report blamed the same law for
not clearly stipulating when the distribution should be done.
Article 42 of current law only indicates that; “this partition shall
be regarded as the accomplishment of parents’ duties to educate their
children and provide them with a personal patrimony.
“Despite the fact that the law guarantees equality between both
sexes, some parents are still bound by culture, which does not recognise
girls rights to property other than domestic materials known as
“ibishyingiranwa” (basic materials needed by the girl for her
marriage),” the GMO report noted.
That is what pushed responsible government offices, including the
Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, Ministry of Justice and the
Parliament to amend the current law to make it more proactive to gender
mainstreaming, according to Gender Minister, Oda Gasinzigwa.
In a consultative debate, between members of the Parliamentary
Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Gender with Gasinzigwa and
Justice Minister Johnston Busingye, last week, a conclusion was that the
new law should get rid of any ambiguity.
Busingye said to ensure the national principle of gender
mainstreaming, partition should be considered as a personal donation
rather than being an obligation to parents and guardians to their
“Ascending a partition ‘Umunani’ should be in form of a gift, not an
obligation for heredity as it used to be in the ancient days,” Busingye
Umunani is the property parents give their children when they come of
age. It is perceived as a responsibility on the side of the parents.
During amendment debates, legislators and the line ministers agreed
that such a traditional “accomplishment of parents” was abused by mostly
male descendants, who at a certain point forced their parents to give
them their portion, which created domestic violence and murder amongst
“We are trying to ensure that the girl child is protected by making
sure that gender mainstreaming is practical,” Gasinzigwa said.
According to Article 33 of the draft Bill, a parent is free to choose who to give but it will not be compulsory.
“In this case, the parent shall, at their discretion, choose when to
give his donations and make a will, and each child shall not necessarily
be entitled to such ascending partition,” reads the bill in part.
Annie Kairaba, the Director at Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable
Development (RISD) noted that the new law will help minimise land
RISD is a local non governmental organisation that focuses on advocacy and promotion of land rights.
“Most of our (RISD) studies have shown that family wrangles
originated from land disputes and ascending partition has been the main
problem. There is a loophole in law implementation, we not only want to
the new law to close the gap but also policy makers should ensure that
people at the grassroots are aware of the law and all provisions,”
Alfred Kayiranga Rwasa, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing
Committee on Political Affairs and Gender, said the new policy would
ensure gender equality.
The Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Children
(NCC), Zaina Nyiramatama, also recommended the move, saying it would
reduce pressure on parents as well as preventing family disputes and
domestic violence that originated from unfair allocation of family
resources among children.
“Some children did not want to work and generate their own wealth.
They would sit back and wait for parents to give them property. This
created laxity, especially among boys. Some children could even murder
their parents so as to inherit property. We need to make children
responsible for their lives; work hard and save for their own future,
and this is what the new law should address,” Nyiramatama said.
The new law is currently being scrutinised by Parliament and is expected to be passed this week.