Sustainable Development Goals

Indicator 5.a.2 - Proportion of countries where the legal framework (including customary law) guarantees women’s equal rights to land ownership and/or control

The indicator collects all existing national policy objectives, draft provisions, legal provisions and implementing legislation that reflect good practices in guaranteeing women’s equal rights to land ownership and/or control. This is a de jure indicator which will measure progress towards SDG Target 5.a.

Target 5.a

Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws.

Level of guarantees of women's equal rights to land ownership and/or control in the national legal framework for selected countries, 2020 (1=lowest, 6=highest)

Impact

Indicator 5.a.2 measures the extent of women’s disadvantages in ownership of and rights to land, as well as equal legal rights to land ownership. Together with indicator 5.a.1, it provides a basis for policy measures aimed at securing equal opportunities and access to rights and resources.

Key results

Legal frameworks do not provide enough guarantees for gender equality in ownership and/or control over land. Substantial progress is still needed both in formulating and implementing laws in order to realize women’s land rights.

Legal frameworks are fundamental for guaranteeing women’s rights to ownership and/or control of land. However, the latest data available from 36 countries suggest that legal provisions included in national laws representing various regions, as well as different religious and cultural contexts, do not adequately protect women´s land rights.

For instance, 15 out of 36 countries have integrated joint-registration provisions in their laws; in 14 out of 36 joint registration of property is mandatory, while only one out of 36 countries has established financial incentives to encourage it. Without the inclusion of women’s names and rights on the land registration document, women’s property rights remain insecure, especially in case of divorce from or death of their husband or partner.

The most positive features in legal frameworks guaranteeing women’s land rights concern the management of marital property and inheritance rights. Twenty two out of 36 countries have provisions establishing spousal consent requirements for land transactions and 25 out of 36 countries equally protect the rights to inherit of married couples and son and daughters. However, persistent social and cultural norms constitute an important obstacle for exercising and claiming inheritance rights, in particular in those countries where the legal framework provides for the supremacy of personal status law and/or custom in inheritance matters.

Moreover, in countries, where customary law is recognized, very often the rights of women are not explicitly protected if customary law conflicts with the formal law and therefore, they are more likely to be endangered by patriarchal norms. Only in half of the countries in which customary law is recognized, the principle of non-discrimination prevails in case of conflict. In addition, it is important to mention that women’s property rights in informal unions are less protected in the law than those for married women, thereby leaving behind a large number of women. This is particularly relevant for issues concerning joint registration, consent for land transactions and inheritance rights.

Moreover, while some countries have adopted temporary special measures to support the realization of women’s rights to land in the law and in practice in line with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), more still needs to be done. SDG indicator 5.a.2 includes two positive measures. One is related with the allocation of financial resources for facilitating women’s purchase of land, and the second with the establishment of mandatory quotas to foster women’s participation in land institutions. Only 12 out of 36 countries have established mandatory quotas to ensure women’s participation in land governance institutions. Evidence shows that when women participate in decision making processes, it is more likely that their interests and priorities are considered. Finally, only six countries have provisions in their frameworks allocating financial resources for facilitating women’s purchase of land. These figures show that more efforts need to be done to ensure that women are represented in land related institutions and that programs to increase women’s land ownership and/or control are financially resourced.

While contextual information suggests that over the last three decades, many countries have changed their legislations with a view to promoting gender equality, evidence from the current reporting countries under SDG indicator 5.a.2 shows that progress needs to continue if we are to advance women’s land rights in the law and in practice. Indeed, provisions in legal frameworks of 15 out of 36 countries do not provide adequate guarantee to protect women’s land rights. This is all the more pressing now that COVID-19 seems to have negatively affected women’s land rights. For instance, there are reports of women being forced to cede their land after the death of their husbands, exposed to internal pressures to relinquish their rights to more powerful family or community members and experiencing difficulties to access to mediation and judicial systems for recourse.

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