Gender and Land Rights Database

Uganda

Inheritance/succession de facto practices

  • Because land tenure is often regulated according to the marriage regimes in place, customary marriages, which are often polygamous and not legally registered, do not guarantee women’s rights to land for inheritance (3).
  • According to customary laws, even when there is a daughter who would be a lineal descendant, sons almost always inherit the father’s land. Next in line are the deceased person’s brothers, uncles and other extended male family members (11).
  • A customary heir is “the person recognized by the rites and customs of the tribe or community of a deceased person as being the customary heir of that person”. In case a deceased person dies without leaving a will, a customary heir receives 1 percent of the deceased person’s estate. When there is no customary heir, the legal heir receives this same percentage (11).
  • When a woman’s parents die while she is already married, in most groups, she is not considered at all for inheritance. Specifically, in the Banyankore and Baganda groups, a woman’s right to inherit land is only viewed in terms of her responsibility to take care of her children. Without children, women have no independent right to own land. In other communities, such as the Bushenyi, sons automatically inherit their father’s land (3).
  • Widows are denied all rights to inherit land under customary regimes. A government study of men’s wills showed that only 10 percent of men left their land to their wives in a trust for their children, while 90 percent of the wills directed the land to be given to the children directly and stipulated that the wife would be taken care of by the children (3). A widow is only ensured of her continued occupation of the residential property she used to occupy with her husband, but does not have the right to control this property in any way. Also, as soon as a widow remarries, her occupancy rights to this property expire (11).
  • According to the patriarchal system of inheritance in place in most of the 56 indigenous communities, the male kin of the deceased will take care of the survived wife and children. De facto, this rarely happens and often the wife and children are dispossessed of the family’s assets and forced to move back to the widow’s parents’ home, where she becomes dependent on her male relatives (11).
  • Several ethnic groups practise matrilineal land inheritance. These include the Acholi, Kigezi, Lango and Alur (3).
  • Under the mailo scheme, women began to inherit more land and some even bought land. In the 1990s, a study showed that 39 percent of female-headed households had inherited land (although smaller plots than men) and that 30 percent of female-headed households had bought land (3).
  • The Muslim minority in the country refer to the 1964 Marriage and Divorce of Mohammedans Act, which states that the Sharia Law, which is the Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet, shall govern all marriages and divorces between Muslims. According to the Quran, a Muslim male takes double the share of the female, according to Sura 4 Verse 11 of the Quran. When a man dies leaving a wife and children, the wife receives one-eighth of the net estate. When there are no children, the wife receives one-fourth. In polygamous marriages, the co-wives have to share the one-eighth or the one-fourth (11).

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