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Edo Women
 
WOMEN'S ESTATE INHERITANCE: PRINCIPLES NEEDED 

From:- BENIN STUDIES NEWSLETTER-Vol. 4

Family estate (/giogbe ) in Benin society was usually an all male affair. Landed properties were rarely owned by women, since they lived with their husbands or parents. A woman's estate consisted of her clothes, bodily ornaments, cooking utensils, few domestic animals one or two fruit trees, in case of women of noble parentage some slaves. When a woman died, her properties were inherited by her daughters except for the fruit trees & slaves which could be shared with her sons. But with colonialism and accompanying capitalism, the privilege of divorce was extended parentage. 

Consequently economically independent as well as single women started to proliferate in Benin society. The opportunities offered by Colonial capitalism enabled a few of them to accumulate properties in land and other goods. Such opportunities and women property owners have continued to increase ever since. Even inheritances of properties have also been favorable to some women, who were enabled to acquire properties as well. 

But these developments have created problems for Benin Society. The craze for properties has destroyed the moral and social fabric of the family. It is such that some women now even value properties more than matri-mony which they would rather fore sake. While some remain chaste and stick to their marriages after ac-quisition of properties, it licenses others to desert their matrimonial homes. 

It has also become a major source of divisiveness acrimony and conflict I within the nuclear family. The greedy desire of some sons to inherit all or lion's share of their mothers, properties is the primary source of acrimony and conflict. Since women estates were formerly rare or unknown, there seems to be an absence of laid down principle or rule for sharing an inheritance of women's estate. Cases exist where brothers inherited such properties in the absence of male heirs. Sons are also known to invoke the lgiogbe principle (which bequeathed the father's homestead to the eldest son) to claim her mother estate, it is usually done with the connivance of chauvinist and or corrupt family elders. These leaves daughters virtually short-changed in both their fathers and mothers estate. The seeming absence of principle or rule has heightened in the proliferation of land cases in Benin courts. 

There is the urgent need therefore to start looking for principles and procedures for solving the problem. The search has already begun, as the Women friendship Association of Benin then led by Madam Hamilton recently held a workshop on the issue and advanced gender equity. The thorny problem remains how to achieve this and make it binding on society. It is in this light that the institute welcomes contributions on this issue.

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