Home » General » Written question – VP/HR – Widows deprived of property rights in Zimbabwe – E-000396/2017

Widows in Zimbabwe are routinely evicted from their homes and land and their property is stolen by in-laws when their husbands die.

A report drawn up by Human Rights Watch found that in-laws often tell women shortly after the death of their husbands that the relatives intend to take over the homes and lands or other property where the husband and wife had lived together for decades. The impact of property-grabbing on widows is devastating.

However, in 2013, Zimbabwe adopted a new constitution that provides for equal rights for women, including rights to inheritance and property. In practice, the existing laws only apply to widows in officially registered marriages. According to estimate, most marriages in Zimbabwe are conducted under customary law and are not registered. As a result, these laws in effect afford no protection from property-grabbing relatives.

This situation is a further example, among many others, of how women’s rights are confronted with international barriers and how their rights keep on being violated.

1. What can the EU do to help protect these women, through cooperation with local and international NGOs and the Government of Zimbabwe?

2. How can the EU bring pressure to bear on the government to take immediate steps to register all marriages, including customary unions, to reform its marriage laws, and to raise awareness of the property rights of widows?