UN: UN committee on women rights tasks Tanzania on discriminatory laws against widows

New York, US (PANA) - Tanzania should take steps to revise or repeal laws, customs and practices that discriminate against women, a UN Committee said on Wednesday after considering the case of two widows who were prevented from inheriting their late husbands’ property and were left homeless.

PANA reports that the Geneva-based UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) issued its call after considering a complaint by the women, who under local customary laws could not inherit upon their respective husband’s death and were subsequently evicted from their homes by their in-laws.

The Committee stated that in 2005, the women, referred to as "E.S" and "S.C", began legal
proceedings, arguing that inheritance provisions be struck down because they contravened
Tanzania’s Constitution and the country’s international obligations under the Convention on
the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which it ratified in 1985.

"In 2006, the High Court agreed that the provisions were discriminatory but said it would not
overturn them as doing so would be opening a Pandora’s box, with all the seemingly
discriminating customs from our 120 tribes plus following the same path," it noted.

It said that, "regarding widows, customary law, which is in force in 30 districts, states that
they have no share of the inheritance if the deceased left relatives of his clan, her share is to
be cared for by her children, just as she cared for them."

However, in its findings, the 23-member UN Committee said that Tanzania should grant the
two women adequate reparation and compensation, noting that, "they had been left
economically vulnerable, with no property, no home to live in with their children and no form
of financial support."

It also called on Tanzania to ensure that rights guaranteed under the Convention have
precedence over discriminatory provisions.

"States parties have an obligation to adopt measures to amend or abolish not only existing
laws and regulations, but also customs and practices that constitute discrimination against

"This includes countries such as Tanzania that have “multiple legal systems in which
different personal status laws apply to individuals on the basis of identity factors such as
ethnicity and religion," it stressed.

Further, the Committee said the courts should also refrain from resorting to unreasonable
and undue delays, noting that shortcomings in the Tanzanian judiciary had denied the
women justice, with their appeal pending before the Court of Appeal for more than six

Among several other recommendations, CEDAW called on Tanzania to encourage dialogue
on the removal of discriminatory law provisions and provide mandatory training for judicial
personnel on the Convention and the Committee’s jurisprudence.

CEDAW also said Tanzania should submit a written response within six months, any action
taken in light of its recommendations.
-0-  PANA   AA/AR 1April2015

01 april 2015 18:30:16

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