Millions of women in sub-Saharan Africa are robbed, beaten, raped, and evicted-often by their own in-laws-because women are deemed unworthy of equal property rights. A recent Human Rights Watch report, "Double Standards: Women's Property Rights Violations in Kenya," documents how women in Kenya are often precluded from inheriting property, expelled from their homes when they divorce or their husbands die, stripped of their belongings, and forced into customary sexual behaviors (such as "wife inheritance" and ritual "cleansing") in order to keep their property. In January 2003, a new government took office in Kenya for the first time in twenty-four years, ushering in the potential for progress on women's property rights. The new ruling party has declared women's equality a priority; a new constitution protecting women's property rights should be adopted this year; and donor agencies have now increased aid to Kenya. Human Rights Watch met with Kenyan officials in March to urge them to prevent and remedy women's property rights abuses. Officials responsible for gender issues, land, agriculture, HIV/AIDS, and legal affairs expressed concern and pledged to take action.

What You Can Do

Urge your elected officials to condemn violations of women's property rights, to press the leaders of countries where women's property rights are violated to change their laws and practices to better protect women's property rights, and to ensure that donor assistance is targeted to end these violations.

For sample letters, fact sheets, and links to resources on women's property rights click here.

Read "Double Standards: Women's Property Rights Violations in Kenya" here.