Can the Law Secure Women's Rights to Land in Africa? Revisiting Tensions Between Culture and Land Commercialization


Ossome, Lyn. 2014. “Can the Law Secure Women’s Rights to Land in Africa? Revisiting Tensions Between Culture and Land Commercialization.” Feminist Economics 20 (1): 155–77.

Author: Lyn Ossome


This contribution is concerned with the challenges of securing women's rights to land in Africa in the context of contemporary land deals through a discussion of three distinct but interrelated problems in the framing of women's land rights discourses. First, this study discusses the interface between rights and “custom” to highlight the inherent distortions of African customary law. Second, it argues that liberal formulations of the law are limited by a set of assumptions regarding women's position in the political economy. And third, this discussion discursively assesses the debates in the literature regarding the efficacy of law in protecting women's rights to land. The discussion proceeds from a critique of two approaches to promoting gender equity in land tenure systems: the institutional approach, which deals with women's formal land rights; and the political economy approach, which deals with the structural nature of women's traditional relations to land.

Keywords: women, customary law, commercialization, political economy, justice, land

Topics: Economies, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Land Tenure, Justice, Political Economies, Rights, Land Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Africa

Year: 2014

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