Terror gripped the widowed mother of six as her brother-in-law held her down in the bushes and threatened to kill her. Two years earlier, then pregnant Tumushabe Claire had been left to fend for herself and her children after her husband’s sudden death.
She faced pressure from her community to accept her brother-in-law as her new husband and forfeit the rights to her land and livelihood. It wasn’t long before Tumushabe’s brother-in-law forced his way into living in her home and began treating her like property.
For a family living in poverty, a house and a small patch of land are crucial sources of shelter, food and income. But in Uganda, when a man dies it is common for neighbours, relatives, and other community members to steal the home and property from his widow and children.
After five months, the man was reported to the police, who finally ordered him to leave. In his anger, he began plotting to harm her. He harassed her, and rallied his friends and relatives to destroy her crops and small coffee farm.
Local authorities referred Tumushabe Claire to IJM’s team in Kampala. The team ensured that she and her children had the counselling, education and support they needed. On September 7, 2016, Tumushabe’s attacker faced a full trial, was found guilty and sentenced to one year in prison.
An estimated 90% of rural sub-Saharan Africans have no proof of ownership for the land where they live and work – making it nearly impossible for a vulnerable woman to prove her rightful claim. Local authorities also lack training in such cases, or simply do not view property grabbing as a crime.
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Image: Tumushabe Claire and her family in front of their new home after the previous one was destroyed by her perpetrators.