Our society and widows rights.

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At the hairdressers salon last week, I was complaining to the business owner why she needed to renovate the salon and hire more capable hands to help her in running the place as this will attract more clients. As we were talking, she told me she lost her husband and father in the space of two weeks. The husband left her with three kids to take care of so with the responsibilities on her she couldn’t afford using the little money she made and saved for taking care of the kids on renovations.

Luckily for Ama (not her real name) she and her husband had built a house before his death so accommodation was the least of her problems in taking care of the family. What she said that triggered this piece was that her late husband’s family attempted throwing her out so they take possession of the house, but she stood her grounds and they eventually backed off.

Then the question hit me, how many widows were or are able to stand their ground in circumstances such as Ama’s and not end up losing properties to husband’s greedy family members? What most of these women do not know is that they could have access to lawyers who could get them their rights as the law demands. PNDC law 1111.
Some of you reading this might have seen first hand how some widowed women were thrown out of their homes because their crimes were their husband’s died.

I heard a story of a man who traveled abroad for work and when he came back home for his short holiday, he unfortunately died. The deceased and wife had one son and he had built a big house for the nuclear family to move into, but incidentally his wife and son were thrown out of the house by the man’s family. Wife didn’t fight back like the woman in the beginning of the story. She just walked away because she didn’t have the strength to fight. She instead chose to make peace with both her losses.

-PNDC Law 111

The INTESTATE SUCCESSION Law of 1985 (PNDCL 111) makes provisions for widows and children whose right are taken away from them by people. If you deny the spouse or the children access to their deceased father/husband’s property, a minimum fine of 50,000 or imprisonment not exceeding a year.

Section 17, which captures Offences Against Spouse and Entitled Persons, states:

Any person who before the distribution of the estate of a deceased person whether testate or intestate

a) unlawfully ejects a surviving spouse or child from the matrimonial home contrary to the section 16A of this Law;

(b) unlawfully deprives the entitled person of the use of—

(i) any part of the property of the entitled person;

(ii) any property shared by the entitled person with the deceased to which the provisions of this Law apply; or

(iii) removes, destroys or otherwise unlawfully interferes with the property of the deceased person,

commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a minimum fine of ¢50,000.00 and not exceeding ¢500,000.00 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year and the court or tribunal shall make such other orders as it considers necessary for the re-instatement of or reimbursement to the person thus ejected or deprived. [As substituted by the Intestate Succession (Amendment) Law, 1991 (PNDCL 264), s. 2]”

The question that lingers on my mind is” How many women know they have a right to fight for ? And how many of them take the “Fa ma Nyame” (leave it to God) attitude of Ghanaians to overlook serious cases like this one”? What surprises me most is the Muslim families who fight over the properties of deceased men when there is a clear cut out plan on how all this should be done. Suratul Nisaa clearly espouses how this should be done at all times in Quran Chapter 4, Verses 7-12.

-Sharia Law

Under Islamic law (Sharia), a widow has the a share of inheritance in whatever her husband left. The Quran (chapter 4:12) states (to the nearest meaning):

“… And for the wife is one-fourth if you (the man) got no child; and one-eight where there is a child…”

Allah, then declares in subsequent verses that these divine proportionings are His sacred “limits”. Thus obeying and abiding by them guarantees Janna(paradise), and going against them ends one in hellfire. (Quran 4:13-14)

A widow is entitled her due proportion of whatever her husband left, and it is HARAAM (forbidden) for anyone to take that from her. And even when the husband doesn’t leave enough money to fulfill her and her children’s needs, the Islamic society must come to her aid.

This could be inferred from a Hadith of the prophet(SAW), collected by Bukhari.

“The one who looks after a widow …. Is like a mujahid (warrior) who fights for the Cause of Islam, or like he who performs prayers all the night and fasts all the day”.

In summary, Islam grants the widow the right to have shelter for herself and her children. She is entitled to a definite portion of what her deceased husband left. And where the children are too young to take of their own entitlements, and the widow has the capacity. She must be put in charge of her children’s entitlements until they come of age.

– Christianity and widows

The Bible which Christians believe in did not leave widows without protection. The Biblical passages about widows illustrate clearly that widows are to be treated with honor and compassion and offered protection so that no one takes advantage of them. In the New Testament, widows received a special treatment from Jesus himself. Jesus had pity on a widow that he brought back her only son to life. In Jerusalem, he condemned the Pharisees for devouring the houses of widows (Mark 12:40).
In the Torah, God ensured that widows are taken care of at every time. At harvest time, widows could legally walk over the fields and gather leftover grapes and olives. Word of God states, “when you reap the harvest in your field and overlook a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; let it be for the resident alien, the orphan and the widow” (Deut. 24:19). For jesus Christ to perform a miracle to bring to life the son of a widow only shows us how important it is we each should treat widows. If you cannot give a widow anything, don’t take what she has from her.

The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and the office of the Legal Aid provide some pro borno services for widows to claim their rights or sometimes do it at a very minimal fee but most widows do not know about these things so their rights go unprotected and some greedy people in society take everything away from them leaving them and their children penniless.

For a society that claims to be “holy” and very “religious”, how well do we practice what the holy books say? Clearly, if we are as religious as we claim, widows are not people we should take advantage of.

Is it that we have not empowered our women enough to be able to stand up to bullies or we have raised a set of meek women who cannot defend themselves against people who are used to taking what doesn’t belong to them?


Featured Image credit: sandyworld.co.za