## Tuesday, January 29, 2013

### INHERITANCE LAW IN TANZANIA: THE IMPOVERISHMENT OF WIDOWS AND DAUGHTERS

TAMAR EZER*
I. INTRODUCTION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 601
II. INHERITANCE LAW IN TANZANIA SENTENCES WOMEN TO
DEPENDENCE, POVERTY, AND SUBORDINATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 606
A. TANZANIA’S CHOICE OF LAW RULES FUNNEL THE MAJORITY
OF ITS CITIZENS INTO DISCRIMINATORY INHERITANCE SCHEMES,
DEPRIVING WOMEN OF PROPERTY SOLELY ON THE BASIS OF
THEIR GENDER. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 606
B. CUSTOMARY LAW DENIES WIDOWS INHERITANCE AND LIMITS
DAUGHTERS TO THE SMALLEST SHARE WITH ATTACHED
RESTRICTIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 609
1. Instead of Recognizing Widows’ Right to Inherit
Matrimonial Property, Customary Law Treats Them as
Minors Dependent on the Care of Others and as Property
to be Inherited by Men . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 609
2. Customary Law Limits and Restricts Daughters’
Inheritance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 612
3. Inheritance by Other Family Members Follows a Gender
Discriminatory Scheme, Generally Passing through
Men . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 613
4. The Limited Customary Rights Granted Women Are
Even More Uncertain in Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 613
C. UNDER ISLAMIC LAW, WOMEN CAN INHERIT ONLY HALF AS
MUCH AS MEN, PERPETUATING WOMEN’S DEPENDENCE. . . . . . 615
Rights Clinic (“Clinic”) and Tanzania’s Women’s Legal Aid Centre (WLAC). The initial report and
proposed statutes were drafted by Spring 2002 students—Nickolas Galli, Susan Gualtier, Kristine Pirnia,
and Sukyong Suh—and later edited by Christine Davis, then an Associate at Howrey LLP. The team
worked under the primary supervision of Susan Deller Ross (the Director of the Clinic), along with
supervision by Esther Kisaakye (a Visiting Scholar at Georgetown University and Lecturer of Law at
Makerere University in Uganda), and input from Monica Mhoja (the then Director of WLAC) and other
WLAC attorneys, Rehema Kerefu-Sameji, Jane Magigita, Alex Mgongolwa, and Martin Mdoe. The
Spring 2002 fact-ﬁnding team also consisted of the following WLAC attorneys: Magdalena Acquilin,
Saﬁna Hassan, and Scholastica Jullu. This project was made possible through the generous support of
USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development). This article builds on the original Spring 2002
report, but it is a rewritten and updated version prepared by Clinic Attorney-Fellow Tamar Ezer.
Acknowledgements: Christine Davis was invaluable in providing information on the 2002 fact-
ﬁnding. I would also like to thank my later students who worked on other Tanzania projects and on
inheritance issues in Tanzania, Uganda, and Nigeria, whose subsequent interviews and thoughts helped
enrich and inform my writing. Finally, a special thanks to Daniel McLaughlin and Uriel Mendieta, whose