Gender and Land Rights Database

Trinidad and Tobago

Rights entrenched in the Constitution

1976, Constitution:
- Chapter 1, Section 4 states that in the country there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, origin, colour, religion or sex, the following fundamental human rights and freedoms, namely: the right to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law; the right to equality before the law and protection of the law; the right to respect for private and family life; the right to equality of treatment from any public authority in the exercise of any functions; the right to join political parties and to express political views; the right of a parent or guardian to provide a school of his own choice for the education of his child or ward; freedom of movement; freedom of conscience and religious belief and observance; freedom of thought and expression; freedom of association and assembly; and freedom of the press.

- Under Section 5, no law may abrogate, abridge or infringe or authorise the abrogation, abridgement or infringement of any of the rights and freedoms hereinbefore recognised and declared.

- Section 6 states that “Nothing in Sections 4 and 5 shall invalidate” an existing law or an enactment that repeals and re-enacts an existing law without alteration or an enactment that alters an existing law but “does not derogate from any fundamental right guaranteed by this Chapter in a manner in which the existing law did nor previously derogate from that right”.

- Section 13 of the Constitution permits the Parliament to pass laws that are inconsistent Part 1 but only with the approval of three fifth of the members of each House of Parliament. Such law is open to challenge in the High Court on the ground that it is not reasonably justifiable in a society that has proper respect for the rights and freedom of the individual.

- If and individual’s constitutional rights are violated or are likely to be so, Section 14 provides that the person has the right to apply for a motion to the High Court for redress (18).

Women's property and use rights in personal laws

- Marriage is in the country is permitted under the 1923 Marriage Act No. 13, Chap. 45:01, the 1961 Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act No. 7, Chap. 45:02, the 1947 Hindu Marriage Act Chap. 45:03 and the Orisa Marriage Act, No. 22 of 1999.

Each Act requires full consent to marriage from the spouses. The only distinction between males and females is the age at which a person is capable of contracting marriage: 18 for both parties under the Marriage Act; 16 for males and 12 for females under the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act; 18 for males and 14 for females in the case of the Hindu Marriage Act; 18 for males and 16 for females under the Orisa Marriage Act.

All legislation makes provision for the appointment of Registrars of marriage to handle the registration of marriages and divorces and specifies the registration procedures for marriage (19).

 

Married Persons Act No. 52, Chap. 45:50, 1976:
- Section 4 states that all property which immediately before 1st January 1937 was the separate property of a married woman or held for her separate use in equity; or belongs at the time of her marriage to a woman; or is acquired by or devolves upon a married woman, belongs to her in all respects as if she were a feme sole and may be disposed of accordingly.

- Section 8 [1]  applies where a husband or wife makes a contribution of a substantial nature in money or money’s worth to the improvement of property in which, or in the proceeds of sale of which, either or both of them has or have a beneficial interest. Subsection 8[2] specifies that the contributing spouse shall be considered as having acquired, by virtue of his or her contribution, a share, as may have been agreed upon between them; or as it may seem just to any Court.

-  Where any question arises as to the right of a husband or wife to money derived from any allowance made by the husband or wife for the expenses of the matrimonial home or for similar purposes, or to any property acquired out of the money, the money or property shall, in the absence of any agreement between them to the contrary, be treated as belonging to the husband and the wife in equal shares, as provided for by Section 9.

- Per Section 12 [1], in any question between husband and wife as to the title to or possession of property, either party may apply by summons to a Judge, and the Judge may make such order with respect to the property in dispute as he thinks fit, or may direct the application to stand over from time to time.

- According to Section 15 [1], each of the parties to a marriage shall have the like right of action in tort against the other as if they were not married (18).

 

Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act No. 2, Chap. 45:51, 1972, as amended:
- Section 3 provides that a petition for divorce may be presented to the Court by either party to a marriage provided that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

- Under Section 4 [1], a marriage may not be considered to have broken down irretrievably unless one or more of the following facts have occurred:
i. adultery;
ii. unreasonable behaviour;
iii. desertion for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition;
iv. separation for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition and the respondent consents to a decree being granted;
v. separation for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.
If the Court is satisfied on the evidence of any such fact as is mentioned in subsection [1], then, it shall, grant a decree nisi of divorce, as of Section 4[3].

- Section 17 [1] states that every decree of divorce, of nullity, of marriage or of presumption of death and dissolution of marriage shall in the first instance be a decree nisi and shall not be made absolute before the expiration from its grant of a period of three months or such other period as may be fixed by Rules of Court, unless the Court by special order fixes a shorter period.

- Under Section   23, on a petition for divorce, nullity of marriage or judicial separation, the Court may order either party to the marriage to make to the other periodical payments for his or her maintenance.

- As of Section 24 [1], the Court may also  make any one or more of the following orders:
i. an order that either party to the marriage shall make to the other periodical payments and for such term as may be specified in the order;
ii. an order that either party to the marriage shall secure to the other, such periodical payments and for such term as may be so specified;
iii. an order that either party to the marriage shall pay to the other such lump sum as may be so specified.

- Under Section 26 [1] the Court may, make one or more of the following orders:
i. an order that a party to the marriage shall transfer to the other party, to any child of the family property to which the first-mentioned party is entitled, either in possession or reversion;
ii. an order that a settlement of such property, being property to which a party to the marriage is so entitled, be made for the benefit of the other party and of the children or either or any of them;
iii. an order varying any antenuptial or postnuptial settlement made on the parties to the marriage;
iv. an order extinguishing or reducing the interest of either of the parties to the marriage under any such settlement (18).

 

Cohabitational Relationships Act No. 30, Chap. 45:55, 1998:
- Provides for the jurisdiction of the Courts to make orders in respect of interests in property and maintenance for a man or woman who are or have lived together as husband and wife on a bona fide domestic basis, even thought they were not married to each other. Cohabitational spouses have similar rights to property as married spouses, although the right to maintenance is not provided (19).

 

 Family Law -Guardianship of Minors, Domicile and Maintenance- Act No. 15, Chap. 46:08, 1986:
- Section 4 [1] states that a mother shall have the same rights and authority as a father, and the rights and authority of mother and father shall be equal and be exercisable by either without the other in relation to the custody or upbringing of a minor, and to the administration of any property belonging to or held in trust for a minor or the application of income of any such property (18).

 

Judicial Review Act No. 60, 2000:
- Provides an individual with a procedure to redress the violation of personal rights. It is only available when there are no alternative methods and if the rights have been violated by a body or authority exercising functions in the nature of public law (19).

 

Maternity Protection Act No. 4, 1998:
- Section 5 states that the Act does not apply where any written law, industrial award or collective agreement prescribes more favourable conditions than those specified in the Act.

- Section 7 provides that an employee is entitled to a leave of absence for the purpose of maternity leave and for full pay while on maternity leave.

- Under Section 9 [1], a pregnant employee is entitled to 13 weeks of maternity leave.

- Section 10 provides that an employee can extend her leave beyond the 13 weeks for medical reasons for a period not exceeding 12 weeks after the required date of return, provided that she supplies a medical certificate and a notice with the intended date of return. The first six weeks will be paid half pay, while the next six will not be paid. An employee might postpone her return to work for non-medical reasons for no longer than four weeks upon the completion of the initial 13 weeks, provided that she supplies a notice containing the reasons for her inability to return to work and the intended date of return.

- Section 12 prohibits the dismissal of women who are pregnant or on maternity leave (19).

 

Citizenship Act, Chap. 1:50, 1976:
- Grants men and women equal rights to pass on their nationality to the children.

 

Immigration Act, Chap. 18:01:
- Provides that matters relating to the acquisition, change and retention of nationality apply to men and women equally (19).

 

Minimum Wage Order, 1988:
- Enacted under the Minimum Wages Act, Chap. 88:04 provides for the establishment of a single minimum wage that covers all workers (19).

 

Status of Children Act, Chap. 46:07, as amended:
- Provides that children born out of wedlock enjoy the same equal status as those children born in wedlock (19).

 

Equal Opportunity Act No. 69, 2000:
- Prohibits discrimination in relation to employment, education and the provision of goods and services. It also seeks to promote equality of opportunity between persons of different sex, colour, race, origin, religion and marital status. The Act has jurisdiction over all employer-employee relations, including those in the private sector.
The Act also provides for the establishment of an Equal Opportunity Commission to receive, investigate and conciliate allegation of discrimination. An Equal Opportunity Tribunal is also set up to act as a superior Court with the power to hear and determine complaints referred to it by the Commission and to make such declarations, orders and awards as it thinks fit (19).

Inheritance legal mechanisms

Succession Act No. 27, Chap. 9:22, 1981:
- Section 3 [1] provides that every person may dispose, by will executed in accordance with the Act, of all property owned by him/her at the time of his/her death, and which, if not disposed of, would fall within the estate to be distributed in accordance with Part VII.

- Under Section 81 [1], the personal representatives of a deceased owner of land may:
i. grant such leases of the land as may be reasonably necessary for the due administration of the estate; or
ii. with the consent of the beneficiaries, or with the approval of the Court, grant leases of the land for such term and on such conditions as the personal representatives may think proper, and, where personal representatives lease any land pursuant to any power conferred on them by this subsection, they may sell any rent reserved on such grant or any reversion expectant upon the determination of any such lease.

- As of Subsection 81 [2], notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Rent Restriction Act and Agricultural Small Holdings Tenure Act, the right of the personal representatives to obtain possession of any premises demised by them pursuant to the power conferred by subsection [1] is exercisable as if those enactments had not been passed.

- Section 88 provides for the division of the deceased’s estate according to the following order: where there are no issue, the whole estate goes to the surviving spouse; if there is one issue, the estate is divided in equal shares between the child and the surviving spouse; if there is more than one issue, one third of the property goes to the surviving spouse and two-thirds are divided among the children.

- Section 92 sets forth the provisions in case of partial interstacy (19).

Land Legislation

Land Adjudication Act, 2000, amended in 2005:
- Under Section 3, the Minister may by Order declare any area to be an adjudication area, from such date as may be specified in the Order.

- Section 4 provides that there shall be an Adjudication Officer who shall be an attorney-at-law of at least ten years. The Adjudication Officer in consultation with the Director of Surveys shall divide the adjudication area into two or more adjudication sections or declare the whole adjudication area to be a single adjudication section and shall give each adjudication section a distinctive number.

- Procedures of adjudication are laid down in Sections 6-16.

- As set forth in Section 6, the Adjudication Officer shall prepare a separate notice in respect of each adjudication section, and in each such notice shall:
i. specify the location and limits of the adjudication section; ii. declare that all interests in land in each adjudication section will be ascertained and recorded in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

- Section 8 explains that every person claming any land or interest in land within an adjudication area shall make his claim in the manner and within the period specified by the notice given under Section 6.

- All unclaimed land shall be deemed to be State land until the contrary is proved, as provided for by Section 17.

- The adjudication record shall be in a prescribed form in respect of each parcel of land. The Minister may make Regulations for the purpose of carrying into effect the provisions and purposes of this Act, as of Section 27 (20).

 

Registration of Titles to Land Act  No. 16, 2000:
- Section 2 [1] states that the Act applies to every parcel of land for which a folio of the Register is established under the Act.

- As of Subsection 2 [2], the purposes of this Act are to: i. provide certainty of ownership of interests in land and to simplify proof of ownership;
ii. facilitate the economic and efficient execution of transactions with respect to interests in land; and
iii. provide compensation for persons who sustain loss in circumstances prescribed (18).

- Pursuant to subsection 2 [3], the Act provides for:
i. establishment of a parcel based register for land;
ii. use of a Unique Parcel Reference Number to identify each parcel of land;
iii. establishing the ownership of interests in land by registration;
iv. establishment of priority for enforcement of interests by time and date of registration;
v. establishing procedures to manage the land registration process;
vi. the maintenance of records in prescribed format; and
vii. establishing procedures for compensating persons who sustain loss subject to the satisfaction of criteria prescribed by this Act.

- Subsection 2 [4] provides that, no law, practice or procedure relating to land shall apply to land registered under the Act in so far as it is inconsistent with the Act (20).

 

Land Acquisition Act No. 28, Chap. 58:01, 1994, amended in 2000:
- Section 3 states that the President may issue a Notice of acquisition regarding any land that is likely to be required for any public purposes. The Notice will be served upon prior publication on the Gazette and twice in at least one daily newspaper circulating in Trinidad and Tobago.

- Under Subsection 3 [6], compensation shall be paid to any person interested in the land so entered for any actual damage or injury resulting to him by reason of the exercise of the acquisition.

- Under Section 5 [1], the President may by Order declare that land is required for public purposes. The Parliament may by resolution approve an Order made under subsection [1].

- Where Parliament approves, the President may by Order make a declaration that the land has been acquired and the declaration shall be published and served in the same manner as that required for a Notice referred to in Section 3 [1] and [2] respectively (18).

 

State Land -Regularisation of Tenure- Act No. 25, 1998:
- Section 3 states that the Act applies to squatters on state lands, squatters and tenants in designated areas and squatters and tenants occupying land of State Agencies listed in the Schedule.

- Section 4 protects squatters from ejectment from dwellings subject to Sections 11 and 27.

- Section 5 established the  Land Settlement Agency, which is responsible for administering and carrying out provisions of the Act. It is managed by a Land Settlement Committee which is headed by a Land Settlement Chairman, as of Section 7. The general powers of the Agency are set out in section 10.

- Section 11 provides for the granting of a certificate of comfort against ejectment. Such certificate does not constitute a title in land.

- Section 27 concerns relocation of squatters. A squatter who fails to comply with a direction to relocate shall be referred to the Commissioner of State Lands and is liable to be proceeded against.

- A Statutory Lease may be acquired by a squatter who has obtained a certificate of comfort or a tenant in an area designated by this Act or the Minister under Section 18, as provided for by Section 14.

- Section 30 established a  Land Settlement Fund. Other provisions of the Act concern investigation into claims on land, ejectment from land settlement areas, regulation making powers of the Minister and the Committee and some other matters (19).

 

 Land Tribunal Act No. 15, 2000:
- The Land Tribunal is established under Section 3 to “to hear and determine appeals from any decision made in the course of the Land Adjudication process, and from the decision of any other body relating to the use and enjoyment of land, the division, the development and the compulsory acquisition of land, and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.”

- Section 5 sets forth the areas upon which the Tribunal has jurisdiction (20).

Policies/Institutional mechanisms enforcing or preventing women’s land rights

- The Land Adjudication and Registration Programme -LARP- involves the systematic adjudication, or ascertainment, of rights and interests in all land, and the recording and registration of these rights and interests in a new land registry system. The Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources, and with the assistance of the Inter-American Development Bank, is implementing the programme (7).

- The Agriculture Sector Reform Programme-Technical Assistance Programme -ASRP-TAP- is currently being implemented in the country. It involves a range of policy and institutional reforms to strengthen the performance of the agricultural sector.
Two specific areas of the reform programme are:
i. The Land Use Policy and Administration component which seeks to create a more dynamic land market and improve the management of State-owned lands.
ii.The agribusiness component which, through the provision of technical assistance to the private sector, foster the development of the agricultural sector as a whole (15).

 

- The Organisation of Professional women in Agriculture -OPWA- was formed in 1989 by the female professionals of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources. Today its membership extends to female professionals within the Ministry as well as other institutions in the agricultural sector. The Organisation aims to:
i. to promote the participation of women in agriculture in the decision-making process at the national, regional and international levels;
ii. to voice and channel the concerns of women in agriculture to the relevant authorities;
iii. to analyze the status and prospects of women in agriculture, with the a view to promoting the appreciation of agriculture as a career for women;
iv. to identify and disseminate information on continuing education opportunities for women in agriculture through lectures, short courses, conferences, seminars and other activities;
v. to promote the application of science and technology of agriculture;
vi. to foster greater communication and collaboration on events and issues of relevance to women in agriculture, nationally, regionally and internationally  (8).

 

- Over the period 1991-2000 there have been 23 policy planning and extension programmes targeting a total of 500 rural women. These programmes, run by the Ministry of Agriculture together with the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation in Agriculture, have been mainly in the area of food preservation, but also in crop and livestock production and management (19).

- Female headed households are the target of the Export Centres Programme which provides training to community-based artisans and directs their crafts to the export market (19).

 

- The Community Venture Programme is a community development project that provides ongoing training to participants, 80 percent of whom are women, mainly rural women (19).

- Training in literacy and basic mathematics is available to rural women at all Lifelong Learning Centres, 28 of which are located in rural areas (19).

 

- The National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation  -NAMDEVCO- was created in 1991 as a state agency within the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources working towards the achievement and maintenance of a commercially viable, sustainable agribusiness sector.
NAMDEVCO identifies new market opportunities both locally and abroad for agricultural and agro-industrial products. NAMDEVO aims at providing the country’s agro-processors and marketers with the marketing facilities, support services and regulatory framework necessary to take domestic foods abroad (23).

 

- The Women and Harmony Programme addresses the problem of unemployment among women between the ages of 26 and 45 who are single heads of household with low or no skills, and low or no income. The Programme consists of an intensive eight weeks full time training in two modules; Elderly Care and Agriculture, and Life Skills and is conducted in regions across the country. Since its inception, in 2000, over 5 000 women have become employable (22).

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