Tanzania: UN Committee Issues Landmark Judgment in Favor of Widow’s Property Rights

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) recently stated that Tanzania’s inheritance laws and property laws discriminated against women, in violation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Convention). These laws often strip widows of their rights to land and property after a husband's death, leaving them homeless and poor. Two widows challenged the customary inheritance laws in a Tanzanian court, arguing the laws violated the country’s international obligations and the Tanzanian constitution. After their case failed and their appeals stalled, the widows petitioned the CEDAW Committee to evaluate Tanzania’s compliance with the CEDAW Convention. The CEDAW Committee adopted views in favor of the widows, finding that the Tanzanian laws violated the widows’ right to equality “in respect of inheritance.”
Compiled from: Ezer, Tamar, The UN’s Rebuke of Inheritance Laws Is a Victory for Women’s Health, Open Society Foundations (May 27, 2015).