United Nations human rights experts have advised Kenya to remove some sections of its Marriage and Property Act which effectively strip women of marital property upon divorce or death of their spouse, unless they can prove they made a contribution to the acquisition of the property during their marriage.
Calling the provisions “serious retrogressive steps” in the protection of women’s equal access to land and property, Ms. Raday stressed in a news release issued by the Geneva-based Working Group yesterday that they are also in violation of Kenya’s international and regional human rights obligations.
“It is expected that very few women will be able to demonstrate such a contribution under the new provisions, since few Kenyan women have land title deeds in their own names and even less hold deeds jointly with men,” warned independent expert Frances Raday, who currently heads the UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice.
Ms. Raday’s appeal has been endorsed by a host of other UN independent experts, including: Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda; the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter; the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, and the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik.
The Act, which came into force on 16 January 2014, could result in many Kenyan women losing access to the lands where they live and farm. Many rural households in Kenya are headed by women, who rely on the land not only to produce food, but also on the income generated by it to access health care services and educational opportunities for themselves and their families.