Gender and Land Rights Database


Normas consuetudinárias, crenças religiosas e práticas sociais que influem no direito à terra diferenciada por gênero

  • There are as many customary laws in the country as there are communities. In most communities, women are not entitled to land in their own right under the customary law that operates in most of the indigenous areas (21).
  • Three marriage types are recognized in the country: customary, religious and civil law marriages. In customary law marriages, the wife is often regarded as the man’s property and she is generally not expected to entertain any measure of equality in whatever form. She cannot avail herself of the benefits enjoyed by a woman married under the Marriage Act. Upon her husband’s death she is more likely to be dispossessed. This is not the case with a man who upon the death of his wife inherits all of her properties. 
  • Customary and Islamic law marriages are potentially polygamous (11).
  • Under customary law, parties do not have equal rights in matters of marriage, dissolution and right of property because marriage is a union between two families (22).
  • Under customary tenure, women rarely inherit and mostly obtain use rights through their husbands. In some cases, unmarried women are allocated land by their families, which they retain after marriage. Nevertheless, the tenure security of women is weak, particularly when a man has multiple wives to whom he may assign different fields each cropping season. This uncertainty impedes on women’s willingness to invest in crop-improving technologies or to plant tree crops (12).
  • Married women are given more respect because of their status and husbands’ protection. In spite of that, under customary law, wives are subordinate to their husbands and in-laws.
  • In most communities in the country, a divorced or separated woman is stigmatized no matter the circumstances of the divorce or separation. This is more pronounced in the eastern part of the country than in other parts. In the north, separated or divorced women can marry after three months (13).
  • The Enugu ethnic group has a patrilineal descent system and a patrilocal residential system. The genealogical ties are traced from fathers to sons, without women. A woman cannot have land to build a house and is regarded as belonging to a different community because she is expected to marry a husband in a different place someday. A woman may acquire a piece of land in her marital home only in the name of her husband or male child. Such a portion of land is known as okaabi and is allotted to her for farming (18).
  • The following practices are in use and are allowed by customary law:
    - early marriage;
    - female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision;
    - violence on women, as men are allowed to beat and hurt their wives if they think they did something wrong;
    - purdah, the seclusion of women from public observation by wearing concealing clothing from head to toe and by the use of high walls, curtains and screens erected within the home;
    - early and unspaced child bearing;
    - widowhood rites and disinheritance (11).

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