Access to land

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Land rights are those property rights that pertain to real estate, that is, land. Because land is a limited resource and property rights include the right to exclude others, land rights are a form of monopoly. Those without land rights must enter into land use agreements, since they must reside somewhere. In western culture, land rights are derived from the sovereign; thus, a land value tax is sometimes referred to as rent.

Land rights can also refer to encumbrances on for example, the right of access. Land rights and related resource rights are of fundamental importance to the world's indigenous peoples for a range of reasons including religious significance, self-determination, identity and economics. Land rights, particularly regarding title to land, have been a major part of most indigenous rights movements worldwide.

Land Access and Gender Discrimination

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) is the main body within the UN that monitors land use around the world (see the World Bank, FAO and IFAD Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook). The FAO’s experience has shown that land is a basic source of wealth, social status, power and well-being. Land is also a major source of employment in rural areas, especially for women. Land can have great cultural, religious and legal significance due to the correlation in many societies between personal decision-making powers and land wealth. Integration and its opposite, social exclusion, are thus closely bound up with personal status where land rights are concerned. Women and the poor are disadvantaged in terms of land ownership.

While women in rural areas are typically employed in the agricultural sector, many do not have legal rights to the land they work on. Land rights for rural women tend to be governed largely by three major items:

  • the right to use land;
  • the right to control land;
  • the right to transfer land.

CEDAW and land rights

In the FAO's view, the major elements for the implementation of CEDAW are:

  • gender-differentiated status vis-à-vis, land use, access and ownership;
  • the importance of legal frameworks in promoting equal access to land;
  • the need for laws guaranteeing independent access to land for women;
  • legally-backed land use rights;
  • land access rights accompanied by equitable access to transport, credits and marketing.

FAO also advises on the following:

  • efforts to understand and acknowledge the complex interaction of land tenure systems;
  • building an efficient institutional framework to protect and reinforce equitable access to land resources;
  • a gender-differentiated approach to land reform and administrative activities;
  • a review of systems of property rights allocation and guarantees.

Margninalized women and access to land

Women and poor in urban areas have an equally difficult time gaining access to property, which in a city is typically viewed as housing. In countries where women and the poor are uneducated, unemployed, or disenfranchised, access to property is especially limited. The FAO recognises several key problems in obtaining adequate urban housing

  • The poor, for lack of time and money, are unable to obtain official title for land and property transactions.
  • Consulting authorities and official records is time-consuming and demands a certain level of education.
  • Changing land use regulations is a constraint to income generating activities.

Achieving gender equality in access to land

FAO has taken note that countries which are politically and financially committed to ensuring gender equality in property rights are also those which have developed faster, and achieved greater food security and higher social and health standards. FAO also insists on the need to recognise and understand those social and cultural practices and values and changing socio-economic patterns that act to limit women's access to land.

FAO therefore advises including the following components in order to achieve gender equality:

  1. Legal frameworks explicitly stipulating gender equality in private property rights. These frameworks must include and highlight customary or traditional development systems for greater effectiveness.
  2. Full participation of local stakeholders (essential to programme success and without which local people are reluctant to cooperate).
  3. Locally applied programmes must consider the problems posed by barriers to the participation of specific groups such as women.
  4. Gender-dis-aggregated data, which helps to determine the number of women beneficiaries of agrarian or legislative reform programmes.
  5. Equal access to other forms of ownership such as cooperatives or marketing associations. Facilitating women's access to these groups on an equal footing with men means acknowledging women's proficiency in management and applying this to other economic activities.
  6. The utilisation of gender-disaggregated data in agrarian reform programmes. Countries commissioning studies on social, juridical or economic programmes should ensure that these studies are gender sensitive.
  7. A gender awareness-building programme designed to persuade men and women of the importance of ensuring gender equality.

External links

See also

Women and Land Tenure

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