Women’s Land Rights in Tanzania and South Africa: A Human Rights Based Perspective on Formalisation


Kaarhus, Randi, Tor A. Benjaminsen, Anne Hellum, and Ingunn Ikdahl. 2005. “Women’s Land Rights in Tanzania and South Africa: A Human Rights Based Perspective on Formalisation.” Forum for Development Studies 32 (2): 443–82.

Authors: Randi Kaarhus, Tor A. Benjaminsen, Anne Hellum, Ingunn Ikdahl


One of the critical issues in current debates on land policies in Africa is how to balance equity considerations with the quest for potentially more effective and productive uses of land. In this article, we explore the strengths and weaknesses of a human rights based approach (HRBA) to development in securing women's land rights--sing Tanzania and South Africa as examples. We analyse the relationship between gender-neutral laws and policies aiming to provide secure tenure through titling and registration and the highly gendered land uses and productive activities on the ground. An overall theme is how women may be effectively protected against the direct and indirect discrimination that is often a consequence of gender-insensitive land laws and policies. We conclude that HBRA offers a critical corrective and counterbalance to the neoliberal approaches that tend to dominate current policy formulation. It applies in contestations over formalisation of land rights. And as a policy tool it offers a set of binding standards that require the taking of measures preventing discrimination in relation to access and control of land and ensuring women's participation in registration processes. The article calls for a closer scrutiny of current formalisation programmes and initiatives in the light of human rights standards.

Topics: Development, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Land Tenure, Political Economies, Rights, Human Rights, Land Rights Regions: Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa, Tanzania

Year: 2005

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