Gender transformative approach: Challenging inheritance norms in Serbia


In many families in Serbia, it is assumed that a women will leave her parents’ home when marrying and join the family of her husband. To ensure that family property remains inside the family, women are encouraged and often pressured to waive their rights for inheritance in favor of their brothers. According to data from the Women’s Association of Kolubara District, almost 44% of women comply. Oftentimes unaware of the consequences and disadvantages associated with that. This is even though according to the Serbian Inheritance Law all children have equal rights to their parents’ assets. 

The practice led to a situation where in rural areas only about 16% of women own real estate. Another of the severe but often unknown disadvantages is that the Law on Social Protection in Serbia stipulates that a person who renounces their inheritance does not have the right to social assistance in the period in which they could have supported themselves if they had not renounced the property. Furthermore, women without assets are having a harder time starting their own businesses or getting a bank loan. In case of a divorce women are often left without any assets, which makes it also harder to leave violent relationships. 

Waiving their rights to inheritance remains a strong and oftentimes damaging norm in Serbia. To challenge this norm and eliminate a structural and systemic cause of inequality, the project Support for Social Inclusion in Serbia (SIP) is implementing an array of gender transformative measures, in line with the German Feminist Development Policy (“Rights, Resources, Representation”): 

  1. Raising Awareness: Supporting a massive media and educational campaign (“How much is my share?”) conducted by the Women’s Association of Kolubara District to raise awareness via classic and online media, as well as educational formats in schools (for boys and girls).  
  1. Changing norms: Working together with the Chamber of Notaries to encourage notaries to inform women who are about to waive their inheritance rights about the consequences, in an accessible and understandable way. 
  1. Changing laws: Working together with the Commissioner for Protection of Equality to implement a large-scale survey on women’s property and inheritance rights. The survey and its analysis will serve as the basis to further analyze the legal framework and propose explicit improvements, with the goal of improving women’s property rights through legal changes. 

With these measures SIP is aiming to improve access to and control over resources for women. It aims to eliminate discriminatory laws and norms (rights). All in close cooperation with feminist civils society organizations and responsible state institutions (representation). 

Contact Details

Name: Iva Djuric
Posted in Gender Week Blog