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Women still face legal barriers to property inheritance – Justice Ajonye

Author: Priscah Akol | Published: Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Photo of South Sudanese women during cultural activity | Credit | Pashoda.org

A South Sudanese women’s rights advocate has expressed disappointment over what she says is the continued “marginalization of women” in regards to property inheritance.

Justice Ajonye Perpetua, who is also a constitutional lawyer said women are being denied access to properties of their loved ones based on unjustifiable traditions and cultures.

According to Ajonye, this is mostly influenced by customary laws.

Women in South Sudan are forced to acquire land through their husbands or male family members, with the derived rights being weaker than primary male rights.

They also face problems in maintaining their land rights in the case of divorce or husband’s death.

The traditions ensure women lose everything, including land and other properties in case of divorce.

In some communities, when the husband dies, the widow is inherited by her husband’s family members and retains the user’s rights.

In the central and eastern regions, when the male children are too young to inherit properties, a male relative is usually designated as trustee until the sons come of age.

But South Sudan’s Constitution and Land Act 2009 assert the rights of women to own properties.

Speaking on Tuesday during the ‘Nuswan Salaam’ Program on Eye Radio, the Deputy Chairperson of the South Sudan Law Society, stated that there is a need to assert the supremacy of the constitution on all matters.

“The issues relating to land and property and restitution are heavily influenced by customary laws in rural areas. That mentality and attitudes have accrued up to the municipality level, up to town council level,” Justice Ajonye said.

“The customary law practices vary from one community to others with slight similarities so you could see where women’s rights on land and poetry are placed.”

“It is a bit complex especially the factors underling the land and property right in the republic of South Sudan. Particularly the discriminatory customs and lack of an elaborate legal framework to protect the property and the land rights of women in South Sudan,” Ajonye concluded.

There are more than 50 different customary laws in South Sudan, where local elders or chiefs exercise administrative control.

Article 15 of the Constitution states that “the State shall ensure women are protected from injustice, promote gender equality and encourage the role of women in the family and public life”, in areas where personal law, religious codes, and customary laws apply.

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