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Base de Datos Género y Derecho a la Tierra

Zimbabwe

Normas consuetudinarias, creencias religiosas y prácticas sociales que influyen en el derecho a la tierra diferenciado por género

  • The customary position of women as minors and as inferior to men – especially in the Shona, Ndebele and other ethnic groups – impedes the advancement of girls and women. Advancement in areas such as education, health care and inheritance of property is diverted to boys and men who are regarded as permanent and major members of families, especially in patriarchal cultures. This relegates women to performing and remaining in unpaid domestic labour, subsistence agriculture and low-paid wage work (7).
  • Women do not have a direct relationship with land nor can they make any claim to it except through their male relatives or husbands (14).
  • Customary law allows the husband, by virtue of his matrimonial power, to dispose of assets, including land, on behalf of the family when property is held jointly. When a woman contracts into a customary marriage, the husband has the legal power to dispose of land on behalf of the family (17).
  • Widows cannot inherit the husband’s estate because a man’s claim to the family inheritance takes precedence over a woman’s, regardless of the woman’s age or seniority in the family.
  • Eviction of widows and orphans from the land by their in-laws upon the death of their husbands/fathers is a widespread practice in the country. Many women farm for a living on land in communal areas run by traditional chiefs. According to custom, chiefs allocate land to male heads of households, but a woman does not automatically inherit this land upon her husband’s death. Consequently, women may be evicted from the land when widowed.
  • Many who remain on the land do so at the pleasure of their in-laws or traditional leaders. Childless widows are often evicted, as are young widows who refuse to be physically “inherited” by a male relative of their late husband, often a brother (14).
  • There are three types of marriage in the country: civil marriage, registered customary marriage and unregistered customary marriage. Because the registration of marriages is not yet compulsory, about 80 percent of women living in rural areas are married under customary law and do not register their marriages, mainly because of ignorance of the existence of the legal requirement for registration of marriages (7).
  • Early marriages are common, especially among unregistered customary marriages. Young girls are still being pledged and married off, although the Marriage Act specifies that the minimum age for marriages is 16 years for girls and 18 years for boys. The African Marriages Act also prohibits the pledging of young girls and women in general (7).
  • The payment of lobola, dowry, is still a very common practice. Since men pay lobola to their in-laws for their wives, they and their families and, in some cases, even the womens’ families expect subservient, loyal and obedient service from their wives. Many women are ill-treated by their husbands or husbands’ families on the grounds that lobola was paid for them and that therefore they should be obedient and respect their husbands and in-laws. 
  • Due to fear of isolation from family members, women are more inclined to adhere to the custom of lobola, even though they are free to enter into a marriage without the payment of it as a prerequisite (7).

Autoridades tradicionales e instituciones consuetudinarias

  • Customarily, land and natural resources were under the control of traditional chiefs who ruled people on using such communal resources.
  • In the decades following independence, the resettlement process was perceived as a way of creating new sociopolitical spaces free from the control of customary authorities, where traditional agricultural practices could be discarded in favour of modern methods. The Communal Land Act of 1983 was one in a long line of legal instruments to increase the control of the State over rural communities. However, traditional leaders who have a strong base in the local communities have never openly viewed the State as having legitimacy over claims to natural resources and this has created conflict between the State and the traditional leaders (6).
  • Under the Traditional Leaders Act of 1998, Chiefs, Headmen and Village Heads are appointed as officers. These local officers have a wide range of powers in local administration regarding, among other things, grazing, allocation of communal land and communal land use, irrigation and use of natural resources (24).
  • In 2000, traditional leaders were put on the central government payroll, which led to them playing an increasingly active role in land administration. However, power and authority for land administration remains vested with the central State, which is the owner of all communal and most resettlement land (27).

Prácticas de hecho en herencia/sucesión

  • The customary law of inheritance does not recognize the woman’s right to inherit from her husband and vice versa, unless there is a will that provides to the contrary. Also, women cannot inherit from their fathers except when there are no surviving sons but only daughters. In customary marriages, a woman has a life interest in the matrimonial home, which has to be shared among wives in case of polygamous marriages (7).
  • In general, a man’s claim to family inheritance takes precedence over a woman’s, regardless of the woman’s age or seniority in the family.
  • Eviction of widows and orphans from the land by their in-laws upon the death of their husbands/fathers is a widespread practice in the country. Many women farm for a living on land in communal areas run by traditional chiefs. According to custom, chiefs allocate land to male heads of households, but a woman does not automatically inherit this land upon her husband's death. Consequently, women may be evicted from the land when widowed.
  • Many who remain on the land do so at the pleasure of their in-laws or traditional leaders. Childless widows are often evicted, as are young widows who refuse to be physically “inherited” by a male relative of their late husband, often a brother (14).
  • In polygamous marriages, each wife keeps the home she was living in at the time of the husband’s death, with its household contents. The wives share one-third of the remaining property, with the senior wife getting the largest share and all the children sharing the remaining two-thirds. In cases where the senior wife’s house is less valuable than the others or where the remaining estate is too small to share, the children risk ending up with nothing.

Discrepancias/vacíos entre derecho escrito y derechos consuetudinarios

  • Although the Administration of Estates Amendment Act of 1997 removed inheritance laws unfavourable to widows in civil and registered customary marriages, eviction of widows from the land of their deceased husbands remains a common practice (17).
  • Although the Act made the surviving spouse and children the primary beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate, it does not offer women and children complete security. The law allows the deceased’s siblings and parents a share of the estate only if he had no offspring, raising the risks of property grabbing and blackmail by relatives who lose out (26).
  • Although no law inhibits women from accessing credit, in practice a woman is required to have a man’s consent. The fact that women lack access to and control over land makes them unable to acquire credit and marketing facilities and excludes them from decision-making powers over agricultural production activities and benefits (7).
  • Although land is adjudicated and registered in the name of “heads of households,” with no explicit reference to male or female heads of household, in practice, upon divorce, women still have to prove their contribution to the marital home in court (19).
  • Although the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1985 allows for an equitable distribution of matrimonial property between spouses upon divorce, the majority of women prefer to leave their matrimonial property rather than go to court because of the strong discrimination.
  • Although according to the Act women in monogamous and polygamous marriages have the right to maintenance for themselves and their children upon divorce, women’s contributions are often overlooked when accounting for the direct and indirect contribution made by each spouse to the family (7).
  • Although the Marriage Act specifies the minimum age for marriages as 16 years for girls and 18 years for boys, early marriages are common in practice, especially among unregistered customary marriages. Young girls are still being pledged and married off (7).
  • In granting the permit to use communal land under the Communal Land Act, the district council must refer to customary law, which excludes women from acquiring land (14).
  • Neither the resettlement programme of the 1980s nor fast track land reform recognized married women’s right to hold land on an equal basis with men. Married women’s access to land under resettlement in the 1980s and under fast track is not rights-based but derived, relational, discretionary and negotiated. Although the government had indicated that it was willing to set aside a quota system for female-headed households, taking into account their social and economic status, only half of the 35 percent of female-headed households benefited from the fast track programme (15).


Fuentes: los números entre paréntesis (*) se refieren a las fuentes que están en la sección de Bibliografía