F.J.- a 63 years old inhabitant of Deçan, had decided to get her share of inheritance by any means, even though she had to encounter numerous hurdles, and even nowadays doesn`t have good relationship with some of her family members. They didn`t allow her even to visit them for five years.
She was the only inheritor of the family and the fortune of her departed father entirely belonged to her. Not being able to reach a common ground with her two uncles and their sons, the case ended up in court.
Even though recently there is a tendency of awareness among women in Deçan regarding their property inheritance rights, most of them still decline.
Hasan Hulaj from the Department of Geodesy and Cadastre at the Municipality of Deçan, asserts that 62 women of Deçan had made requests to get their inheritance in 2016. Whereas, in 2017 only 26 women had claimed the right to inheritance.
Sanije Thaqi from the Group of Women members of the Assembly of Deçan, explains that during a training on women`s rights to inheritance, organized by USAID, they had presented many dilemmas whether it may be dishonorable to carry over the inheritance from their father “to their husband.”
It was explained to the participants that what belongs to them by law is not “a present they take to their husbands,” but is rather used for their own and for the benefit of their children, whereas “at their husband” they may claim half of the joint fortune they gained from the moment they got married.
“The laws are favorable for women’s inheritance rights, but the patriarchal mentality still lingers on. Married women think their brothers would be mad at them, and in case something were to happen to them, they wouldn`t be able to count on them. On the other hand, some of the participants still maintained that it would be disgraceful to claim their share of inheritance from their father and ‘take it to their husband’. There were even mothers who couldn`t support their daughters since they lived with their sons and daughters-in-law,” Thaqi says.
The Group of the Women members of the Assembly and NGO “Jeta” in Deçan, claim that they are not sitting still and that they`re engaging for raising the awareness of the girls and the women in this municipality. The above-mentioned training, in which around 250 women of Deçan were introduced to their rights to inheritance, is an engagement in that direction.
“Apart from women, elementary and high school students from 12 villages of Deçan were also part of this project. The fact that there was a single woman inheritor in 2006, was a strong drive for concrete steps for raising the awareness of women. At the end of the training the number of the women who said they would pursue legal procedures to take their share of inheritance, went up to 38,” says Safete Gacaferi, founder of NGO “Jeta” in Deçan.
During the project that was implemented from September 2016 to June 2017, according to her there were indicators that there is awareness, since participating women knew that they have the right to inheritance, but they were reluctant to claim it since they did not want to disrupt relations with their families.
Sh.B. 52 years old from Deçan is one of the women who willingly gave up on her share of property inheritance.
“We are three sisters and we have a brother, we never insisted on getting our share of inheritance, nor did we ever claim it even though we had that opportunity. Our father and our brother insisted that we divide the money from the village land sold, into four, but none of us sisters accepted. We`re married and have good economic conditions, and the other reason was that we are very close to our only brother. We wanted this to be a sort of gift for him and his family,” she says.
The main problem according to Sanije Thaqi from the Group of the Women members of the Assembly of Deçan, a law graduate, is that women are economically dependent since only a small portion of them work. The ones who do not work have no property on their names, and are deprived from that particular right.
“They should be made aware, given that the society neither respects them enough. By being economically dependent they are discounted, and the Kanun (Code of Lekë Dukagjini) also has its share of influencing this process,” she says.
Article 36 of chapter “Tagri i Trashigimit”, in the Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini prescribes that “Kanun recognizes only the man as an inheritor, not the woman… The woman has no right of inheritance both at her father`s and at her husband`s.”
Even though she admits a level of responsiveness among women in Deçan, she still doubts when it comes to numbers and the increased interest for inheritance among local women.
“There are many cases when women are allowed to inherit, for beneficial reasons,” she adds.
The notary, Haxhë Qorraj does not exclude cases when women are declared inheritors for there may be a benefit for one or both parties, which pushes forward the process.
“If the property is divided in equal parts, the spouses are free from cadaster fee, and this has consequently increased the interest to follow this procedure in 2016. I had more than 100 transaction contracts in my office, within a very short period of time, and 80% of the property was registered jointly,” he said.
Qorraj reminds that according to the law all inheritors, be they men or women, have equal rights to inheritance.
“Most of the women, somewhere around 85%, even though we make them aware of the importance of getting their share of inheritance, willingly give up in favor of their brothers or other inheritors. In cases that I dealt with, leaving their share of inheritance to men was not something imposed to them, but rather lack of awareness or lack of interest for what they are entitled by law,” Qorraj says.
Even though the case of F.J. from the beginning of the article, was resolved at first try in the court, she says she was forced to make some concessions and to pay all the court expenses.
“The house, the land, a large number of cattle and poultry, and a first-class forest, were not included in the property inheritance. Even though I was entitled to one-third of the entire inheritance, two-thirds of this share I gave away for one reason only, I didn’t want to disrupt relations within our family,” she says.