Red flag as women suffer in disputes over family property

Sunday April 30 2023

There are concerns over increasing cases of violence among family members. Picture:File


Family disputes linked to property inheritance are fueling case of gender-based violence, leaving women as the majority of the victims.

Civil society organizations have raised alarm over the growing cases of gender-based violence (GBV), especially in the rural areas bred by fight over inheritance of property.

“GBV has become a scourge, the country is losing many women to these senseless killings, the number of women murdered by their husbands keeps growing, authorities have to come up with drastic measures to combat this problem,” said Umurerwa Ninette, executive secretary of Haguruka, a lobby, which fights for the rights of women and children.

She noted that many of the GBV cases are related to failure to agree on ownership of property between couples or family members

However, the review of legal instruments such the inheritance law, the family law and land law-giving women equal rights to inherit property has brought more harm than good to women.

Progressive as they are, the laws have caused sharp disagreements between married couples, with some men killing their wives.


At least one in three married women in Rwanda reported having experienced physical violence from their partners, and 46 percent of married women reported to have experienced spousal physical, sexual, or emotional violence, according to the recent Demographic and health survey report.

Among the cases listed on the national public prosecution authority website received and investigated this year, those involving husbands killing their wives in cold blood outnumber any other listed criminal cases.

In the cases listed by prosecution, all the murders are premeditated because the killers even report themselves to authorities during which the confess to the gruesome murders.

On March 28, this year the high court of Rubavu tried a case of a man who killed his wife with a bottle, after which he mutilated her body and inserted a bottle in her private parts.

On the same day, High Court of Rusizi tried a case of a man who hacked his wife of 15 years to death with an axe. Earlier in the day she had asked him for money to shop for foodstuffs, which he didn’t, then they exchanged some words, after which the quarrel thawed.

The husband then waited when the wife was asleep and attacked her with an axe. He told prosecutors that he had planned to murder their four children as well, but when he came into their room he found one of them still awake and that’s what saved them.

This followed an incident that shocked residents of Kimisagara, in Kigali who woke up to news of a man who cut off his wife’s head and threw it a bucked all in the presence of their children.

According the International Labour Organisation, in the region, Rwandan women enjoy only 83.8 percent of the legal rights Rwandan men do, standing well above its neighbours of Uganda (81.3), Tanzania (81.3), Kenya (80.6), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (78.8), Burundi (76.3) and South Sudan (67.5), according to the World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law Index.

The regional average observed across SSA was 72.6 percent, and the average score for Eastern and Southern Africa was 74.1 percent.

Rwanda stands out globally for its efforts in advancing gender equality, scoring highly on four indicators including mobility, workplace, marriage, and assets. Meaning that women have the same legal rights as men in those areas.

However, Rwanda was fingered on the parenthood indicator, in last year’s report on laws affecting women’s work during pregnancy and after having children. Maternity and paternity leave schemes can help recognize and redistribute unpaid care work.