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South Asia

Gender and Property Rights within Postconflict Situations


Lastarria-Cornhiel, Susana. 2005. "Gender and Property Rights within Postconflict Situations." Working Paper 12, United States Agency for International Development, Washington, DC.

Author: Susana Lastarria-Cornhiel


This paper provides an assessment of the nature of women’s property rights in regions plagued by violent conflict, reviews property rights programs funded by donors in postconflict situations, and attempts to tease out major policy and programmatic lessons. It also examines the importance of land rights and the status of women in societies that have strong customary norms and practices regarding land tenure. After exploring issues around the acquisition of land rights by women, the paper presents case studies of gendered rights to land under different types of postconflict situations, focusing on policies and programs for improving women’s land rights. Policy and programmatic recommendations are offered for improving gender equity in postconflict land tenure systems. 

In many regions of the world, households, communities, and societies are destroyed by civil war, invasions from neighboring countries, and interethnic violence. During periods of violence and conflict, the destruction of material and physical resources is devastating for families and communities, particularly for low-income populations. The destruction, however, goes beyond the material and physical. Community cohesion, governance institutions, community authority structures, and socioeconomic subsistence networks are also destroyed, leaving the most vulnerable—such as women and children—destitute and with minimal recourse for even their daily survival. Often families flee the violence and destruction to other parts of their countries or to other countries, leaving most of their belongings and assets behind.

The process of rebuilding communities’ social structures and institutions is slow and uneven. Nevertheless, the restoration of civil and human rights to all groups—including women—is the basis for rebuilding a democratic postconflict society. Land and housing make up one crucial set of rights. Property rights are recognized as an important factor in the struggle to attain economic development, social equity, and democratic governance (e.g., Herring 1999). As cultural heritage and a productive resource, the value and meaning of land is universally recognized. Its social and psychological values for rural families are also important. The challenge is to improve social equity while working for peace, security, and reconstruction. But peace must be understood as more than the absence of war and violence; reconstruction must be seen as more than bricks, roads, and telephone networks; and security must be defined as more than a strong military force.

The international community has begun to acknowledge the link among women’s lack of rights to landed property and increased levels of poverty among women, particularly in postconflict societies. The UN’s Habitat Centre brought attention to this crucial issue in 1998 by commissioning a number of papers and holding an international conference on Women’s Land and Property Rights under Situations of Conflict (UN Habitat 1999). However, only limited progress has been made in strengthening women’s rights to landed property. Women are consistently excluded from postconflict reconstruction efforts. They are thus unable to ensure that their interests are addressed. Gender-biased laws remain the primary barrier to secure land rights in many countries. Even where women have legal entitlement to ownership, they continue to be denied land rights, primarily for cultural and political reasons. (Executive Summary from original source)

Keywords: gender, gender equity, post-conflict reconstruction, women's rights, Property Rights

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Land Tenure, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, Americas, Central America, Asia, South Asia Countries: Afghanistan, Guatemala, Rwanda

Year: 2005

Questioning Women’s Solidarity: The Case of Land Rights, Santal Parganas, Jharkhand, India


Rao, Nitya. 2005. “Questioning Women’s Solidarity: The Case of Land Rights, Santal Parganas, Jharkhand, India.” Journal of Development Studies 43 (3): 353- 375.

Author: Nitya Rao


Women's land rights have been on the policy agenda in India for at least the last 20 years. Yet not much has happened on the ground. Why have not women mobilised to claim rights to land? What have been the limits to collective action by women around land rights? Through fieldwork in the Santal Parganas, Jharkhand, India, this article explores these questions. Firstly, the socially embedded nature of land as a resource and the mutuality and interdependence between men and women in the productive use of land needs to be recognised. Consequently, more than gender identities, it is other cross-cutting identities of ethnicity, education, kinship relations and marital status that both motivate women to stake their claims to land as well as oppose the claims of other women and men. Secondly, women's land claims seem to have a chance of becoming effective only if they have some male support, hence rather than aligning with other women, those who are serious in their claims seek to build alliances with men, particularly those able to influence the argument in their favour. Just as amongst women, there is considerable evidence to show that men too adopt different subject-positions depending on their own experience and context. Finally, by attempting to present women's land claims as a gender issue, not only is it found that women are unwilling to mobilise around this issue, but there is also an enhanced resistance from men.

Keywords: women's land rights, collective action, men, gender, mobilization

Topics: Education, Ethnicity, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Rights, Land Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 2005

Gender and Command Over Property: A Critical Gap in Economic Analysis and Policy in South Asia


Agarwal, Bina. 1994. “Gender and Command Over Property: A Critical Gap in Economic Analysis and Policy in South Asia.” World Development 22 (10): 1455-1478.

Author: Bina Agarwal


This paper focuses on a much neglected issue: the links between gender inequities and command over property. It outlines why in rural South Asia, where arable land is the most important form of property, any significant improvement in women's economic and social situation is crucially tied to their having independent land rights. Better employment opportunities can complement but not substitute for land. But despite progressive legislation few South Asian women own land; even fewer effectively control any. Why? A complex range of factors — social, administrative, and ideological — are found to underlie the persistent gap between women's legal rights and their actual ownership of land, and between ownership and control. The necessity of collective action by women for overcoming these obstacles and the aspects needing a specific focus for policy and action are also discussed.

Keywords: gender inequality, Property Rights, land rights, collective action

Topics: Economies, Economic Inequality, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Gender Equity, Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Asia, South Asia

Year: 1994

Land Rights, Gender Equality and Household Food Security: Exploring the Conceptual Links in the Case of India


Rao, Nitya. 2006. “Land Rights, Gender Equality and Household Food Security: Exploring the Conceptual Links in the Case of India." Food Policy 31: 180-193.

Author: Nitya Rao


This paper seeks to critically examine the conceptual linkages between the issue of land rights for women, with household food security on the one hand and gender equality on the other. After a brief analysis of shifts in both international and national policy discourse and practice in terms of control over land as vital for food security, it seeks to analyse the implications of this for gender relations. The paper argues that in a context of diversified rural livelihoods, the contribution of agricultural production to household subsistence has been declining. This trend has been reinforced by a decline in public investment, stagnant growth and fluctuating prices for agricultural products. Men have been able to access the better paid, non-farm jobs, while leaving women behind to manage agricultural production. The renewed link between production and food security in agricultural policy has however meant allowing men not to have responsibility for household food security. While a right to land for women is a positive development, it appears also to be leading to an enhancement of work burdens, without much change in terms of status or decision-making authority.

Keywords: gender equality, land rights, household food security, gender relations, agricultural policies

Topics: Agriculture, Economies, Food Security, Gender, Women, Men, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Households, Livelihoods, Rights, Land Rights, Women's Rights, Security Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 2006

Land, Dowry, Labour: Women in the Changing Economy of Midnapur


Gupta, Jayoti. 1993. “Land, Dowry, Labour: Women in the Changing Economy of Midnapur.” Social Scientist 21 (9-11): 74-90.

Author: Jayoti Gupta

Keywords: dowry, gender, gender roles, womens rights, women's land rights


  • This paper explores the situation of women returning to their homes and communities after their countries have experienced major conflicts. In that context, it assesses the range of barriers and challenges that women face and offers some thinking to address and remedy these complex issues.  As countries face the transition process, they can begin to measure the conflict’s impact on the population and the civil infrastructure.  Not only have people been displaced from their homes, but, typically, health clinics, schools, roads, businesses, and markets have deteriorated substantially.  While the focus is on humanitarian aid in the midst of and during the immediate aftermath, the focus turns to development-based activities for the longer-term.
  • Development activities provide a significant opportunity to ensure that gender is central to the transitional process. Here we take gender centrality to be a first principle of response – namely planning, integrating and placing gender at the heart of the development response to conflict.  First, many of the post-conflict goals cannot be implemented when the population is starving, homeless, and mistrustful of government-sponsored services.  Women constitute the overwhelming proportion of refugees misplaced by war; not responding to their specific needs to return home dooms the reconstruction process.  Second, women are central to any socioeconomic recovery process.
  • This paper looks at the need to integrate development and post-conflict, and then turns to an analysis of why gender matters.  It then looks at the development as both a short and long-term process, using the model of “social services justice” to describe immediate needs as the country begins the peace stabilization process.  Social services justice serves as an “engendered” bridge between conflict and security, running the temporal spectrum from humanitarian relief through post conflict to longer-term development, any of which is inclusive of transitional justice.  The goal throughout is to respond to the immediate needs of the population post-conflict, ranging from livelihoods to health to education.

Topics: Development, Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Economies, Gender, Women, Gender Mainstreaming, Gendered Power Relations, Livelihoods, Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 1993

Gender and Land Rights Revisited: Exploring New Prospects via the State, Family and Market


Agarwal, Bina. 2003. “Gender and Land Rights Revisited: Exploring New Prospects via the State, Family and Market.” Journal of Agrarian Change 3 (1-2): 184-224.

Author: Bina Agarwal


The question of women's land rights has a relatively young history in India. This paper briefly traces that history before examining why gendering the land question remains critical, and what the new possibilities are for enhancing women's land access. Potentially, women can obtain land through the State, the family and the market. The paper explores the prospects and constraints linked to each, arguing that access through the family and the market deserves particular attention, since most arable land in India is privatized. On market access, the paper makes several departures from existing discussions by focusing on the advantages, especially for poor women, of working in groups to lease in or purchase land; using government credit for land rather than merely for micro–enterprises; and collectively managing purchased or leased in land, the collectivity being constituted with other women, rather than with family members. Such group functioning is shown to have several advantages over individual or family–based farming. This approach could also help revive land reform, community cooperation and joint farming in a radically new form, one centered on poor women. 

Keywords: women's land rights, inheritance, land market access, group farming, land reform

Topics: Class, Economies, Gender, Women, Livelihoods, Rights, Land Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 2003

Gender, Peace and Conflict


Skjelsbæk, Inger, and Dan Smith. 2001. Gender, Peace and Conflict. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Authors: Inger Skjelsbæk, Dan Smith


Gender is increasingly recognized as central to the study and analysis of the traditionally male domains of war and international relations. This book explores the key role of gender in peace research, conflict resolution and international politics. Rather than simply ‘add gender and stir’, the aim is to transcend different disciplinary boundaries and conceptual approaches to provide a more integrated basis for research and study. To this end Gender, Peace and Conflict uniquely combines theoretical chapters alongside empirical case studies to demonstrate the importance of a gender perspective to both theory and practice in conflict resolution and peace research. The theoretical chapters explore the gender relationship and engage with the many stereotypical elisions and dichotomies that dominate and distort the issue, such as the polarized pairs of femininity and peace versus masculinity and war. The case study chapters (drawing on examples from South America, South Asia and Europe, including former Yugoslavia) move beyond theoretical critique to focus on issues such as sexual violence in war, the role of women in military groups and peacekeeping operations, and the impact of a ‘critical mass’ of women in political decision-making. Gender, Peace and Conflict provides an invaluable survey and new insights in a central area of contemporary research. It will be essential reading for academics, students and practitioners across peace studies, conflict resolution and international politics. (SAGE Publications)

Keywords: gender, conflict resolution, peace, conflict

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Gender Mainstreaming, Peace Processes, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual Violence, SV against Women Regions: Americas, South America, Asia, South Asia, Europe, Balkans Countries: Yugoslavia (former)

Year: 2001

Patriarchy, Militarization, and the Gender Gap in Education: The Case of Pakistan


Azhar, Talat. 2009. "Patriarchy, Militarization, and the Gender Gap in Education: The Case of Pakistan." PhD diss., Pennsylvania State University.

Author: Talat Azhar


This study investigated the effects of patriarchy and militarization on women's educational attainment in Pakistan, where the literacy rate is among the lowest in the world, roughly two-thirds of all women cannot read or write, and even modest goals of girls' primary school enrollments seem elusive. Some progress has been made toward universal primary school enrollment, but by and large, secondary and tertiary education has remained beyond the reach of women in many parts of South Asia, including Pakistan. Efforts to improve women's education in Pakistan have focused on issues related to underdevelopment, poverty, and religious fundamentalism. Consequently, most literature addresses school, family, and community factors as the primary barriers to participation in education. My thesis represents the first attempt at exploring the power relations emerging from patriarchy and militarization, and their collective contribution to gender differences in educational attainment in Pakistan. Using data from the Adolescent and Youth Survey of Pakistan, conducted by the Population Council and the government of Pakistan in 2001-2002, I have investigated the reasons for persistence in women's low educational attainment. I used binary logistic regression to analyze three dependent variables: currently attending school, primary school completion, and ever attended school. Results of this study suggest that girls are at a distinct disadvantage relative to boys in educational attainment. Girls are also far less likely to seek an education because of perceived social undesirability of schooling and lack of empowerment to make decisions regarding their lives. A further analysis reveals that the disadvantages increase during the military government. The findings of this study have implications for providing policy direction toward achieving gender parity in education as a first step and subsequently striving for universal primary education in postcolonial conflict zones. More specifically, the findings point to a need to look beyond establishing girls' primary schools for a solution to the education crisis.

Topics: Age, Youth, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Education, Gender, Women, Girls, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Post-Conflict Governance, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Pakistan

Year: 2009

Peacebuilding and Reconstruction with Women: Reflections on Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine


Moghadam, Valentine. 2005. “Peacebuilding and Reconstruction with Women: Reflections on Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine.” Development 48 (3): 63-72.

Author: Valentine Moghadam


Valentine M. Moghadam looks at feminist insights into violence, conflict, peacebuilding, and women's rights, as well as developments in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine, to make the case for the involvement of women and the integration of gender into all phases of conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction and governance.

Keywords: womens rights, conflict resolution, post-conflict governance, post-conflict reconstruction

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Post-Conflict Governance, Peacebuilding, Peace Processes, Political Participation, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Rights, Women's Rights, Security, Violence Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East, South Asia Countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine / Occupied Palestinian Territories

Year: 2005

If Not Now, When? Addressing Gender-Based Violence in Refugee, Internally Displaced, and Post-Conflict Settings: A Global Overview


Ward, Jeanne. 2002. If Not Now, When? Addressing Gender-Based Violence in Refugee, Internally Displaced, and Post-Conflict Settings: A Global Overview. New York: The Reproductive Health for Refugees Consortium.  

Author: Jeanne Ward

Keywords: gender violence, refugee, displacement, post-conflict, human trafficking


This report addresses gender-based violence (GBV) in refugee, internally displaced, and post-conflict settings through twelve country profiles: three each for Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. The profiles include background information, GBV issues, GBV-related programming, and recommendations. The report focuses almost exclusively on violence against women and girls, and human trafficking is one of the main issues discussed. 

Topics: Displacement & Migration, IDPs, Refugees, Refugee/IDP Camps, Gender, Women, Girls, Gender-Based Violence, Health, Reproductive Health, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual Violence, SV against Women, Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Americas, Central America, South America, Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, Oceania Countries: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Colombia, Congo-Brazzaville, Guatemala, Kosovo, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Thailand, Timor-Leste

Year: 2002


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