Thursday, September 10, 2015

Policy Brief: The Impact of Gendered Legal Rights to Land on the Prevalence and Nature of Intra and Inter Household Disputes

More than sixteen years have passed since the adoption of the 1999 Succession Law, which introduced protections for gender equality in land ownership and equal rights to land inheritance. Recently, many questions have been raised regarding the actual impact of this legislation on gendered land rights. To this end, the USAID LAND Project contracted the Institute of Legal Practice and Development (ILPD) to conduct a study measuring “The Impact of Gendered Legal Rights to Land on the Prevalence and Nature of Intra- and Inter-Household Disputes”. 

The ILPD research team used a mixed methods approach to collect data in every region of the country. The research methodology included a large-scale randomized household survey, focus group discussions, key informant interviews, and data collected directly from Primary and Intermediate Court records.

The findings highlight the inconsistencies, uncertainties and confusion that can arise from the introduction of gendered land rights in a dynamically changing social and statutory environment. This is nowhere more evident than in inter-generational inter vivos land - transfers called “umunani”, which were traditionally gifts of land given to male children, but are now also accessible to women. Other arenas of contestation relate to the rights of women in legal versus informal marriage, the land rights of widows, and legal co-ownership in the land registration process.

A nation-wide education and awareness-building campaign is needed to address overall insufficient knowledge of gendered land rights, with particular emphasis on addressing the awareness gap between men and women; the continuing traditional belief that men and boys have stronger claims to landed umunani and inheritance than women and girls; and the traditions, norms, and beliefs that prevent women from claiming landed umunani. The legal rights of widows and informally married women to land should also be revisited, strengthened, and clarified.  

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