Changing Customary Land Rights and Gender Relations in the Context of HIV/AIDS in Africa


Villarreal, Marcela. 2006. “Changing Customary Land Rights and Gender Relations in the Context of HIV/AIDS in Africa.” Paper presented at Colloque International "At the Frontier of Land Issues: Social Embeddedness of Rights and Public Policy”, Montpellier, May 16-19.

Author: Marcela Villarreal


The effect of prime-age adult death and its consequences on access to land for the survivors has not been fully explored nor incorporated into policy regardless the fact that high adult mortality is now the lived reality in countries affected by HIV/AIDS, particularly in Africa. This paper explores the gendered relationships between adult death due to HIV/AIDS and changes in land rights for the survivors particularly widows, In many African societies, women have traditionally accessed land through marriage. The stability and longevity of marriage guaranteed wife’s continued access to land and other productive resources. However, with HIV/AIDS, and consequences of high mortality among prime-age adult men, women’s access to land is increasingly becoming tenuous. This is partly due to break-down of rules and institutions (including but not limited to wife inheritance) that have traditionally guaranteed women’s usufruct and other forms of access to land. This breakdown of rule and institutions, we argue puts women at highr risks of contracting HIV/AIDS. This is not merely an individual risk, but a societal one, in which the epidemic will continue to perpetuate itself due to overt gender inequalities to ownership and control of land resources.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS, gender, land, property, customary law

Topics: Age, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Health, HIV/AIDS, Rights, Land Rights Regions: Africa

Year: 2006

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