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Widow Eviction – Dynamics And Its Context

Nairobi,  2 September 2011 – Women eNews Kenya reported this story back in April 11, 2011 at the time, she had been married for 7 years.

The 28 year old woman from Ndumberi village in Kiambu district was appealing for help from the provincial administration after she was evicted from her home by in laws following her husband’s death.

Elizabeth Wanjiru Rurimi was seeking for help to go back to her husband’s house from which she was barred from entering or going near to by her father in-law.

The mother of four had told the press that her husband died an year ago and when she refused to be inherited by his brother, she was chased away from her matrimonial home immediately after burial.

Rurimi told the presS “I started finding cow dung at the door steps and they kept on throwing stones on my house. Soon after I was told to pack and go since I was not entitled to inherit anything from them”

Read how we reported a story of  Liz “Your Husband is Dead, Now Pack and Leave”

Today, we share with you a statement from Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA Kenya has embarked on a mission to ensure that women are free from injustices including widow eviction.

The organization led a successful campaign on enhancing and safeguarding gains for women in the Constitution including their rights to property and inheritance.

Recently, FIDA Kenya held a public debate on widow eviction in an attempt to understand the dynamics and its context.

The first debate was held in Kakamega on the 18th August 2011, another one is planned at a later  date in Kisumu City.

FIDA Kenya defines Widow Eviction as a situation where the deceased’s family pressures or forces a widow and her children to leave their home after the death of the man.

While Widow Inheritance is defined as a situation whereby the widow is pressured or forced into marrying her husband’s brother or another relative in order to claim a right to her husband’s land.

Widow Cleansing is a situation where a widow is forced by the deceased’s family or other community members to have unprotected sex with a professional “cleanser” who receives money for his “services”.

According to FIDA Kenya, culture plays a significant role in different communities and it is for that reason FIDA Kenya decided on a debate on widow eviction in order to understand the dynamics and its context.

“It is critical for the future of Kenya that we have an informed debate about Widow Eviction” says FIDA Kenya in a statement.

Children are traumatized and made to drop out of school. The widows and their children lose their livelihood and they cannot defend themselves; some of them are beaten and their houses are torched and they are turned into beggars.

These creates families break ups and conflicts. Even where statutory national laws recognize women’s rights to land, housing and property, “traditional” values prevail amongst judges, police officers, local administration and land officials.

They often interpret statutory laws in what at present are understood to be “customary ways”, as a result of which women are deprived of the rights they should enjoy under statutory law.

Kenya has now recognized women’s equal rights in her Constitution, thus complying with international human rights standards and obligations.

Alarming numbers of cases are reported of in-laws having evicted widows upon the death of their husband.

A widow is not considered to be part of the clan and is expected to return to her parents and/or fend for herself.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic has contributed to an increase in such evictions. Legal or customary discrimination often block women from accessing their property and inheritance rights.

FIDA Kenya says it has identified widow eviction as an area of litigation and has organized to conduct consultations and focus group discussions with the identified communities and groups affected by widow eviction in Nyanza and Western.

“The impact and effect of non compliance to the women in the grassroots will be established and remedies denied. The importance of these consultations is to put a human face to struggles of women rights and show how further non compliance with the provisions of the constitution will affect the realization of women’s rights and general advancement of human rights and national development” the statement adds

Among those identified for the forum are Widows, CSOs, Informal Justice System, Provincial Administration, Religious leaders, Government Departments, Lawyers among others.

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