A local channel today aired a law discussion on w omen’s rights to succession with lawyer Judy Thongori.Listening to most of the callers who were male,most of them had a problem with women (who i would assume are their siblings) getting part of their father’s estates.It was shocking to me that in 21st century Kenya a man would go to the courts to fight his sisters right to get part of their fathers wealth just because they are a woman.
Why is it that women still have to prove that they are as equal to property rights as men?Maybe it all goes back to the masculinity view of women best exemplified by the payment of dowry done by prospective husbands for their wives.Let me explain….
In most Kenyan communities we practice bride price payment,where the husband to be has to show his ability to take care of his wife by giving some amount of money which is reached upon by elders as dowry.In my grandfathers time it was paid off in terms of living breathing animals be it goats,cows,sheep and a hive of live bees together with any other requirement the tribal elders deemed fit.Nowadays with migrations to urban areas and with dwindling amounts of livestock and reduced land size,people do not keep the same number of animals as yester years.Also changing lifestyles means people are leaving their traditional ways of earning livelihoods and opting for office jobs.That is why dowry payments have changed to and nowadays you will find it is either paid off in terms of cash or checks.
While all this is happening we still find that in some instances we have not shed off the tag a woman carried years back of being second to a man.When a woman in traditional African society marries a woman,she leaves her father and mother and becomes answerable to her husband.It seems when this happens then one is also supposed to discard all relations with her immediate family and cleave to that of her husbands.This is probably the reason why some men contest wills where property has been left to their female siblings,they no longer view them as being part of the family.
Being a mother of two,Miss Sunshine and Energizer Bunny ,i would not think of leaving my worldly possessions to my son only.His sister being my child is entitled to her parents property too.The argument that she would already have been married and part of some other family is all hogwash because i do not think parents relinquish the rights to their child even when they are married.It is also preposterous to claim that my brother claims more rights to my parents than me and my five sisters.
It is time we saw less wrangling by families over their parents property especially when their parents pass on without a will.The constant battles for family wealth is saddening especially among siblings who share the same blood and an almost equal set of chromosomes from each of their parents.