Gender and Land Rights Database


Inheritance/succession de facto practices

Customary inheritance laws follow a patrilineal inheritance system which privilege men. More specifically, the oldest or unmarried son is more likely to inherit land from his parents while daughters in the Oromiya region cannot inherit their parents’ property because it is believed that their wealth is at their husbands’ homes. In Gambella, women do not inherit property unless there are no sons, the daughters are too old to remarry or the women have sons who are minors. In Amhara, which is predominantly inhabited by Christians, women can inherit only if there are no brothers or parents (8).

Muslim married women have rights over one-eighth of livestock and their by-products. Upon the husband’s death, a widow may be required to marry one of the brothers-in-law in order to continue the family blood line (19).

In the northern part of the country, sons and daughters had an equal right to inherit land since lineage could be traced through their father and mother to claim land, i.e. cognatic descent. In practice, however, given the prevalent patrilocal marriage system, women’s rights to land were often ignored or implicitly traded in exchange for family support (17).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography