Women Forced Back into IDP Camps by Unfair Land Ownership Laws

2281 Views Kitgum, Uganda
Hundreds of women in Northern Uganda are stuck in camps for the internally displaced because they have no homes to return to. Most of the women are single mothers, divorcees and widows whose husbands died during the guerilla war fought by the Lord's Resistance Army. Culturally, they have no claim to land in their villages because they are no longer considered members of their fathers' families and cannot possess their husbands' land because of ambiguous inheritance and marital laws. Several Luo cultures also dictate that women do not have a right to own land. Grace Akumu is a teenage mother from Yepa Parish in Mucwini sub-county, Kitgum. She says she and her husband had numerous marital problems and she was eventually divorced. Akumu says she attempted to return to her father's home, but her own brother and her sister-in-law chased her away and forced her back into the camps reveals that she is divorced from her husband //Cue in: iI divorced #i Cue out: i# in the camp.i// 60-year-old Tereza Lukwiya says it is not only young women who are suffering the repercussions of sexist cultural norms. Lukwiya, a resident of Okol Parish, says she always understood that the land left by her dead husband was hers to inherit. However when she attempted to leave the camps to return home, her in-laws took her to a local council court which ordered her off the property. Lukwiya says she was also forced to pay back money she got from a plot of marital land she sold in 2002. The LC3 vice chairperson of Palabek Gem, Prosca Marango, says girls who have children out of wedlock are most affected by unfair property ownership laws. She says she receives at least five cases everyday involving women being forced off their property. //Cue in: iThese girls #i Cue out: i# where they can go.i// Although there are traditional courts, there seems to be no immediate solution for affected women offered by legal institutions. Hellen Achan, the coordinator for Sexual and Gender Based Violence at the UN development program in Kitgum, says there is a need to review cultural regulations regarding land ownership and their compliance with the Constitution of Uganda. Sebestiano Otto, the chairman local council courts in Mucwini Sub-County agrees with this. He appeals with government to draft new laws to ease the work of the local council courts.