Women´s Land Rights


Women´s Land Rights, Land policy and Legal Pluralism

The presentation by Roberts Kebeba Muriisa over “women´s land rights, land policy and legal pluralism” brought together questions of land rights and gender issues. Primarily he stated, that land rights for women are very limited in African countries compared to the rights of men. For example, women often have access to land and can decide, how land is used, but they almost never have control over land and how the income is allocated. So why is it important, that women have equal land rights? First of all, it´s a question of equity and justice. With land rights women even get access to other social services like the health system. As well, it´s a question of efficiency: if women work the land, they should have the full control over it due to reasons of efficiency. Another argument Roberts Kebeba Muriisa made was that if women get more rights to land the nutrition and formation of children and the family welfare improve. But although there are many advantages by strengthening women´s rights over land, why can´t we hardly see any improvement of these rights? According to Prof. Muriisa the answer lies in three dimensions of policies: the historical, the vertical and the horizontal dimension. In the historical dimension it is important to see, where policies historically came from and in the land rights issue, the past wasn´t about gender-sensitive policies. The focus hereby is on Customary land rights, which have had bad implications on the control over land by women: women normally can´t control, possess or inherite land according to customary land rights. They can just get access over marriage or as a gift from friends. Due to this structure of customary land rights, the implementation of new, gender-sensitive policies was deteriorated. That´s the vertical dimension. As well the horizontal dimension is connected to the other two. The solution, which other actors like the World Bank wanted to enhance, was to abandon customary land rights and set up land titling. But this policy didn´t work and improve the situation of women. Now men, who had control over land, could even sell their land and women lost access. But the impacts on women by the market-system are twofold. In contrast, the market gives women the possibility to buy, possess and control land – this isn´t possible over the customary land rights system. So the market is arguably a solution to this problem, but what else can be done to improve women´s rights in this issue? One solution is the distribution of land by the state to women, which was done in Sambia. Another solution is to implement anti-discrimination paragraphs in the Constitution, so women can go to high courts with these issues. This happened for example in South Africa, Tanzania or Nigeria. Other solutions are the participation of women in institutions like the parliament or the better governance and enforcement of policies. In the end, the solution according to Prof. Muriisa is a radical reform program. The discussion afterwards was mainly about two issues. Firstly, how do we take away the fear, even of death, women are facing if they want to resist. The second question raised was: Which arguments do we choose, if we want to make changes? So do we e.g. use the argument of better nutrition for children, if women have control over land or don´t we reproduce structures hereby?

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