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International Action on Women's Property Rights

Human Rights Watch's March 4 report, "Double Standards: Women's Property Rights Violations in Kenya," documented the denial of property rights to thousands of Kenyan women, especially widows. Now two critically important United Nations bodies have taken up the call. The two United Nations bodies, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Governing Council of the U.N. Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), recently passed resolutions calling on governments to stop violations of women's property rights. In April, the CHR passed a resolution on women's land, property, and housing rights that encourages governments to transform discriminatory customs that deny women their property rights, reaffirms women's equal inheritance rights, and underscores how violations of these rights are often perpetrated by spouses or in-laws. In May, UN-HABITAT for the first time passed a resolution on women's rights and role in human settlements development and slum upgrading. This resolution urges governments to promote women's participation in human settlements planning and development and requests that UN-HABITAT integrate women's perspectives in all its activities.

Human Rights Watch worked with a coalition of grassroots and international women's organizations during and after the CHR session in Geneva to press the U.N. to adopt these resolutions. At the CHR session, HRW took part in panel briefings and advocacy with government delegates, and used its recent report on women's property rights violations in Kenya to highlight how sexist laws and customs deny women their rights to own, inherit, and control property.

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