Gendered Land Rights, Legal Reform and Social Norms in the Context of Land Fragmentation - a Review of the Literature for Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda

Citation:

Andersson Djurfeldt, Agnes. 2020. “Gendered Land Rights, Legal Reform and Social Norms in the Context of Land Fragmentation - A Review of the Literature for Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.” Land Use Policy 90: 1–10.

Author: Agnes Andersson Djurfeldt

Keywords: land tenure, land rights, Sub-Saharan Africa, gender, social norms, legal pluralism, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda

Annotation:

Summary:
“Recently, concerns have been voiced regarding the rapid increases in rural populations in sub-Saharan Africa and their consequences for rural livelihoods and food security (Headey and Jayne, 2014; Jayne et al., 2014) as pressure on land increases in already land-constrained countries. Generally speaking, the literature shows a number of parallel tendencies as demand for land increases: the marginalization of weaker groups’ claims to land and a growing push towards individualized tenure arrangements. While intersectional aspects related to marriage, age, ethnicity and migrant status must be born in mind, from a gender perspective, women in sub-Saharan Africa have historically been discriminated against in property rights systems that either view women as property or severely curtail their property rights by assigning them rights to land through adult males, such as husbands, fathers or sons (Joireman, 2008). Such discrimination would be expected to be accentuated by growing demand for land, as the property rights of adult males take precedence over those of women.
 
While contemporary processes of population growth and commodification of land more generally are expressed in dwindling farm sizes in a number of African countries such tendencies should also be situated in relation to increasing policy experimentation with privatized land rights more generally, either on individual or communal basis. Here, the literature suggests that formalization of land rights may enshrine gender-based discrimination through formalizing the customary land rights of male right holders. Simultaneously, however, legal reforms in several countries, at least ostensibly, have attempted to improve land rights for women.
 
The aim of this article is to review the literature on women’s rights to land in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda against this broader backdrop of fragmentation, commodification, individualization of land rights and legal reform. The review explores a set of research questions, which take their point of departure from the hypothesized links between gender-based discrimination and the parallel processes of land fragmentation and privatization, but also explores the country level empirics of such discrimination in the context of recent legal reforms. The following questions underpin the analysis
 
- Does gender-based discrimination exist in the land tenure systems and land use practices found in these countries?
 
- If so, what role do formal and informal legal mechanisms and social norms, respectively, play in upholding this discrimination?
 
- How do growing demand for land and privatization of tenure affect rural livelihoods from a gender perspective?
 
A sizeable literature exists with respect to the first two questions, and most attention will therefore be paid to these. While the literature on livelihood changes is limited, contrasting theoretical perspectives highlight the link between privatized tenure and livelihood outcomes (whether positive or negative). As such the inclusion of this question is warranted despite the relative lack of literature on the topic.
 
The article begins by describing the methodology including the selection of countries and sources used. This is followed by a description of gendered patterns of land control and ownership. A theoretical section follows, outlining theories related to land rights and privatization and individualization of tenure and the presumed linkages between redressing gender discrimination in land rights and positive outcomes such as raising productivity and improving child welfare. A descriptive section introduces the tenure systems, land legislation and the current situation of women’s access to land in each country, tracing the inequities and discrimination that are present in the contemporary tenure, market, and inheritance systems for land. Following this descriptive section, I synthesize the findings for the countries overall, identifying the formal and informal mechanisms through which discriminating practices are perpetuated and if and how they have been affected by recent legal reform efforts and changes in land policy. Finally, I discuss the gender consequences of these developments for rural livelihoods” (Andersson Djurfeldt 1-2).

Topics: Gender, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Land Tenure, Livelihoods, Rights, Land Rights, Security, Food Security Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa Countries: Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda

Year: 2020

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