In the face of the evidence, men still persist in denying that male attitudes and behavior are the main cause of discrimination against women. Some argue that women themselves are partly to blame for their problems. A chief inspector in Rwanda told me in 2006 that the problem of rape “is due to illiteracy [lack of education?]; irresponsible parents who do not protect their children properly or who allow their young girls to go around without any covering below the waist.” Another man, a local government leader in Rwanda, insisted that much of the crime and disorder in his area was due to immorality and the condom:
It is customary law, however, not state law and international rights, that prevails in many parts of Africa, particularly rural areas. In this environment, women have limited access to the state judicial system for enforcing state laws and constitutional rights and instead rely on customary law to settle disputes. Under customary law, women are frequently discriminated against. One such gender discrimination is a pervasive denial of the right of women to inherit land and homes. Whatever the statutory law might say, in practice in many areas of Africa, land use, housing, and the transfer of land and housing between generations are regulated by customary law,
which largely excludes women from property ownership and inheritance. Land ownership is commonly passed through male heirs. A woman’s right to access and to use land is normally dened by her relationship to men. Married, she may enjoy the use of land belonging to her husband; single, she has access to that of her father or guardian; when her husband or father dies, her right to the land is in question. Should she fail to secure the land and property rights, she can potentially be made homeless and without access to adequate food (Richardson 2004). It is true that many ethnic groups have in the past had a social safety net providing for widows and orphans at the death of the male head of household. is required the men who did inherit property to care for the wife or wives of the deceased and all of his dependents as the deceased would have. But, under severe pressure from conict, population growth, decreasing land plots, and the social upheaval caused by HIV/AIDS, these mechanisms have been breaking down. How the issue of land and inheritance is policed is therefore of no small concern for women and currently rests largely with customary leaders. Yet, as with other issues of abuse, women will weigh carefully the cost of challenging the perpetrators of injustice before chiefs who control access to other rights and benets.