Friday, October 13, 2006
Tamar Ezer and Susan Deller Ross have recently published their article entitled Inheritance Law in Tanzania: The Impoverishment of Widows and Daughters, 7 Geo. J. Gender & L. 599 (2006).
Here is their introduction:
Georgetown's International Women's Human Rights Clinic and its transnational NGO partners -- LAWA-Ghana, LAW-Uganda, WLAC-Tanzania and Swaziland's SWAGAA -- celebrate with this volume five years of joint fact-finding projects in support of proposed legislation to advance women's human rights. Clinic students, faculty, and transnational partners use the fact-finding information to write comprehensive human rights reports. They also expand on the traditional report model, however, by drafting proposed legislation to address identified problems. After the semester ends, Clinic partners continue to refine the legislation through meetings with sister NGOs and government staff. They can then use the report and bill to lobby for legislative change that will implement their country's human rights commitments.***
We present in this volume four human rights reports and bills, featuring a project from each of our fact-finding trips from 2002-2005 in Tanzania, Ghana, and Uganda. They address egregiously discriminatory laws -- laws that deprive women of their dignity and sentence them to a life of subordination and poverty. Marriage laws allow fathers to marry young daughters to older men, denying the girls an education and condemning them to early childbirth and its injuries. In marriage, women have virtually no rights, and certainly no legal protection from domestic violence. When husbands die, discriminatory inheritance laws deny women property, control, and custody of their own children, and subject them to the whims of a designated male guardian.
While these projects involve Tanzanian, Ghanaian, and Ugandan laws, similar provisions can be found in developing nations around the world. Indeed, they were once common in the United States, Great Britain, and Europe. Just as nineteenth -- and twentieth-century Northern activists succeeded in their effort to change their laws to grant married women equal rights with married men and to protect them from domestic violence, so too can twenty-first-century Southern activists newly armed with human rights law. North-South alliances like that of the Clinic and its partners enable the sharing of experiences and can help speed up the process of change by bringing the North's resources -- rich libraries, dedicated student and faculty time -- to add to the South's knowledge, local expertise, courage, and activism.
This volume also includes three essays by Clinic faculty, partners, and students describing this new kind of human rights fact-finding project from several vantage points. In this first essay, we bring the faculty perspective on its benefits. Esther Kisaakye's essay provides the views of a Ugandan attorney who helped supervise the discriminatory inheritance projects in Tanzania and Uganda. Lisa Vollendorf Martin adds three other viewpoints -- first as Clinic student investigating domestic violence in Ghana, later as a Clinic alumna supervising the student fact-finding mission about FGM/FGC (female genital mutilation/cutting) in Uganda, and currently as a policy attorney with WEAVE (Women Empowered against Violence), where she works on domestic violence issues in Washington, D.C.