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One of the most difficult obstacles to improving gender equality in land rights is patriarchal values and practices. In most cultures, inheritance practices are patrilineal. Women have land tenure rights only through their male children or male relatives from their husband’s lineage. Often a woman must seek permission from her husband before undertaking or committing family resources. This hampers effective use of resources and also lowers the motivation of women to invest in the land they use, for example by adding irrigation in land rehabilitation projects. Even when local custom affords women certain land rights, they may be reluctant to demand them for fear of losing social benefits.

In most of Africa, where inheritance is patrilineal, a woman loses rights to land following the death of her spouse. Widows and divorced women have virtually no tenure or inheritance rights with which to ensure food security for themselves or their children.

For example, in Burkina Faso, Mossi land tenure and family structure are patrilineal. This patrilineal culture determines marriage practices and who has control over land.

In the Middle East, women rarely own land, and when they do, the land is often controlled or managed by male relatives until marriage, after which the titles are transferred directly to their sons. Socio-cultural norms also have an impact on fertility rates. In India, daughters usually waive their land rights in favour of their brothers, to avoid being denounced as selfish and being alienated from their families. This often results in women bearing as many sons as possible in an effort to secure access to land.

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