Gender and Land Rights Database


Discrepancies/gaps between statutory and customary laws

Although legislation affirms women’s basic rights to land, resources and employment, customary and religious practices and laws limit women’s access to resources because of the country’s great variety of traditions, norms and practices of ownership (15).

The customary rule that only the husband is entitled to land ownership and officially represents the household in any transaction with other institutions in legal and administrative matters, contradicts Article 35[7] of the Constitution, which guarantees women’s equal rights to acquire, administer, control, use and transfer property. It also violates Article 40 [1] of the Constitution on women’s equal rights to enjoy and use property and to “sell or transfer by succession or by any other means” (15).

Despite the legal protection in the Ethiopian Family Law (FDRE 2000), the rights of women are not yet consolidated. Under customary law, marriages are still not voluntary and parents decide on behalf of their daughters. Bride price and dowry remain important elements of marriage contracts (8).

The National Policy of Women, formulated in 1993, acknowledges the rights of women to participate equitably within society and within the household, but fails to recognize the extent to which significant variations in customs and traditions among regions constitutes a constraint to the effective delivery of development services to women (15). Moreover, although a consent clause exists in the family codes, in practice, husbands can, and often do, take a loan without the consent of their spouses (12).

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