oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - Widows under Zambian customary law and the response of the courts

Volume 18, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



The article considers the predicament of widows under customary law in modern Zambia. In traditional society, women were not allowed to inherit from the estate of their deceased husbands. There were perhaps sound reasons for this rule based on the structure of traditional society. In modern society this rule can but work injustice and cause hardship. Read has observed that, "the customary laws based upon the traditions of rural life and family authority, can not be applied to the conditions of life in modern cities." This is more so when the rule relating to inheritance is derived from the fact that African marriage treated a woman as inferior to the husband in the marriage relationship. This paper examines the traditional rule, the reasons for the rule, and shows that the premise on which the rule was founded no longer exists. It is contended that its survival is in part, due to the failure of the courts to look at the rule analytically and critically. This means that many of the gross inadequacies of the law will continue unless rectified by legislation.

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