women’s inheritance rights, inheritance rights, women’s rights, Africa, customary indigenous law, statutory national law, legal reformation, social change, legal awareness


When indigenous customary law violates women’s rights, how can national legal systems ensure justice for women while respecting regional cultural sovereignty? Which entities, if any, hold the jurisdiction to enforce compliance with statutory national law--and should they? I examine the tension between indigenous customary and statutory national law on women’s inheritance rights in Botswana, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. I argue that grassroots efforts to induce gender-based societal change must develop in tandem with institutional and legal reformation, as gender-egalitarian sociocultural foundations will best incentivize compliance with women’s inheritance rights. I propose three key tasks: mobilize women to achieve legal awareness, secure men as educated allies, and reform accessibility to fair courts and legal protection. Using several cases, I analyze discrepancies between the institution and practice of national law when in conflict with customary law. I identify current legal and social reformation initiatives conducted by both state and non-state actors to minimize abuse of women’s inheritance rights. I propose strategic modifications to existing reformation endeavors designed to empower both women and men to reconstruct the status of women.

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Political Science

University Standing at Time of Publication