Custom and discrimination: a gender based examination of the customary rules of inheritance of the Nyakyusa

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University of Dar es Salaam
This study is concerned with the examination of customary practices and rules of inheritance in Tanzania with particular reference to the Nyakyusa. Our main objective is to assess using the relevant international Legal instruments to which Tanzania is a party, whether there exist gender based discriminatory elements in these customary practices.In pursuant of this goal, the rationale behind these customary practices will be investigated and if need be, remedial suggestions made on bringing these customs into conformity with International Human Rights law instruments concerned with gender equality. It is pertinent to mention from the outset, that our examination of inheritance and succession rules is confined to Tanzania mainland. Zanzibar is not included in the study even when we refer to the word Tanzania. Our study has revealed that in amongst the Nyakyusa who are agropastoral, land has assumed the status of a vital asset, necessitating the need for its protection against alienation outside the clan or family consequences, on the assumption that girls marry away from their parental homesteads they are not entitled to inherit land exclusively, lest they transfer the land outside the clan or family through marriage. The principle of protecting clan land applies to male and female heirs. However, the principle is applied in a discriminatory manner because while male heirs land rights remain intact during their absence, females have no such advantage, and in the case of widows they cannot inherit clan land at all. The study is divided into five chapters. The first chapter is introductory. It provides the background to the research problem, develops the scope of the study and includes a review of literature. It also highlights Tanzania's human rights treaty record. The literature review discusses the three major schools of thought relating to the sociology of gender that is, the Marxist, Radical Feminists and Socialist Feminists who are otherwise termed liberal. This discussion is important when evaluating the issue of gender inequality. The significance of the study is also discussed, largely by identifying its relevance to Tanzania society by contrasting. The hypotheses underlying the study are set out as in the research provided to guide us in our major objective of the study. Methodology employed this being in addition to a discussion of research data evaluation. Chapter two includes an examination of the international legal instruments relating to women's Rights. A study of initiatives taken by the United Nations on issues concerning rights of women is also tackled Strategically and aims of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women {CEDAR) are highlighted. A critical assessment of CEDAR and other relevant international human rights instruments is undertaken with the view of evaluating how effective these can be in the promotion of women human rights.Chapter three deals with the legal position of women in Tanzania, It examines government policies established for the purpose of promoting women rights and the impact of these policies on promoting equal rights between men and women. It also critically discusses the role of women's organisation in the promotion of women's human rights.Chapter four deals with the law on succession in Tanzania. An emphasis is on the examination of the legal position of women with regard to the Law of Inheritance. Chapter five is an evaluation of data gathered from the field research. This includes examining the community under study and customary inheritance rule in amongst the Nyakyusa. There shall also be an examination of the position of women under traditional Nyakyusa customary practices.The concluding chapter, includes a summary of the study and provides some remedial suggestions and recommendations to alleviate the problem under study.
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Inheritance and succession (Nyakyusa law), African people, Tanzania
Korosso, W. B(1994) Custom and discrimination: a gender based examination of the customary rules of inheritance of the Nyakyusa, masters dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam. Available at (