Gender and Land Rights Database


Customary norms, religious beliefs and social practices that influence gender-differentiated land rights

- The practice of land readjustment, that is the practice of readjusting village holdings to the changing household population, combined with patrilocal residence patterns, has hampered women’s access to land in most rural areas. Land-use rights are not allocated to individuals; rather, they are treated as joint rights held by all household members.

When a woman marries and resides in her husband’s village, which is usually not her maiden village, she risks losing her entitlements to land in her native village. If the women’s maiden village decides to adopt land re-allocation, as she is not present any longer in her maiden household, her land share could be taken back by the collective.
Furthermore, when a woman marries she is not always guaranteed a land share in the husband’s village since the village can also decide to not adopt the readjustment policy. Even when a woman’s is allowed to retain her land share in her native village, she is not entitled to transfer out the land entitlement.

Once a woman divorces and remains in her ex-husband’s village, she may be treated as an outsider. On the contrary, if the woman chooses to return to her maiden village upon divorce, she may find that the land-use rights initially allocated to her have been either taken away by the village through readjustment or assigned to her parents or brothers through an informal intra-household transaction (18).

- Land transfers are largely conducted based on mutual understanding and familiarity between individuals. Such transfers take place within the village and are generally informal, not requiring approval of the collective landowner. They are limited to part of the landholding, short-term and  uncompensated, with the transferee assuming obligations for taxes and fees associated with the land (18).

Traditional authorities and customary institutions


Inheritance/succession de facto practices

- The daughter who marries out of the native village is regarded as a non-member of the household and thus deprived of the right to inherit the land-use rights left by her deceased parents (18).

Discrepancies/gaps between statutory and customary laws

- Article 30 of the 2003 Law on Land Contract in Rural Areas states that the collective entity of a woman’s original residence may not take back her land share when she marries, divorces or become widow and moves to a new residence, unless she receives an allocation in that new residence; however, in practice, a woman may lose  entitlement to land both in her native village and in the new one, as a result of moving to the husband’s village after marriage. A woman’s use-rights in the native village may be re-allocated to other members of the household, while, in the husband’s village, she may not be granted a new share if the village decides to not adopt the readjustment policy (18).

- Despite the 1998 Land Administration Law states that families with daughters will not loose their daughters’ portion of the land upon their marriage, in practice, these rights may be taken back by the collective during the process of readjustment (18).

- Although Article 9 of the 1985 Law of Succession recognizes equal inheritance rights to males and females, a daughter might be deprived of the right to inherit the land-use of her the deceased parent, if she marries out of the native village, since she is no longer regarded as a member of the household (18).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography