The implementation of laws and policies to strengthen women's right to land in Rwanda often clashes with customary practices and deeply embedded socio-cultural norms and beliefs. In some instances this implementation has even led to new forms of discrimination. In order to be more effective, new laws should show greater sensitivity to customary systems and the complex reality of the existence of the local population. This is the conclusion of a thesis produced at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
The Land Registration and Titling (LRT) Program in Rwanda, launched as
part of a broader reform programme in 2006 and expanded to cover the
whole country in 2009, had as one of its aims to strengthen women's
right to land. An elaboration of gender-sensitive land laws and policies
has challenged some gender norms and ideologies related to male
However, deeply rooted customary practices and socio-cultural
norms make this implementation difficult; even more so, since
implementers of the new laws at local level often lack knowledge of
these and also lack the will to put them into practice.
“The idea of
women’s subordination to men is transmitted from parent to child, and
also via schools, religious institutions, media and so on. This sustains
gender hierarchies,” says Jeannette Bayisenge, author of the thesis.
She has studied the implementation of the LRT Program through field work
conducted in 2012 and 2013, when she interviewed 480 women from
agricultural households in conjunction with twenty-three semi-structured
interviews and nine focus group discussions with local level policy
implementers, women and members of women’s associations.
Jeannette Bayisenge found that even though more women today are fighting
for their right to land, more awareness needs raising about the new
laws. And women need more support in order to have the courage to claim
“Women have a weaker bargaining position than men. In
my study, women cite their lack of knowledge, inability to present their
case, fear of community disapproval, fear of their husbands, fear of
in-laws, lack of confidence, time constraints and financial means as
being some of the main factors that can discourage them from claiming
their right,” says Jeannette Bayisenge.
“Women are stuck between
exercising their right to claim a piece of land and their concern not to
compromise their relationships with their husbands, families, community
and society as whole.”
The new laws themselves also perpetuate inequalities; for instance, they
require women to be in a monogamous and registered marriage, yet one in
three women in the country is not.
“Even though banned by law
today, polygamous marriages still exist. Women in such marriages, as
well as women who enter into non-registered marriages, are not covered
by the law.”
Jeannette Bayisenge also found that the reluctance of local implementers
to enforce the new laws is another hurdle if change is to happen. Many
implementers have scant knowledge about these laws, but their reluctance
also stems from the fact that the implementation process takes a
top-down perspective whereas local implementers try to be sensitive to
the local context.
Jeannette Bayisenge recommends that new laws and policies should in
future be integrated more gradually into the complex and diverse reality
of the local population.
“Policymakers should continue looking at
ways to adapt new policies to the local context, and to implement them
cautiously and gradually rather than imposing them on people,” Jeannette
Name of the thesis: Changing Gender
Relations? Women’s Experiences of Land Rights in the Case of the Land
Tenure Reform Program in Rwanda.
Contact: Jeannette Bayisenge, Department of Social Work,
The thesis can be downloaded at: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/38298
Source : http://www.gu.se/english/about_the_university/news-calendar/News_detail//more-needs-to-be-done-to-strengthen-women-s-right-to-land-in-rwanda.cid1287447