Gender and Land Rights Database

Ethiopia

Outros fatores sociais, econômicos e políticos que influem nos direitos à terra diferenciada por gênero

Women’s rights to land are sidelined despite the legal provisions that envisage joint ownership of husbands and wives. In practice, issues related to the rights of widows, divorced women and polygamous wives are ignored (8). Although the Constitution guarantees women’s rights upon dissolution of marriage, in reality the only way for widows or divorced women to secure their rights to land is to enter into marriage with one of their brothers-in-law. Indeed, if women return to their natal homes, they will not be provided for because traditional inheritance and marriage practices envisage that a woman’s right to land resides with her husband (8).

Laws related to marriage, ownership and inheritance rights remain ineffective because they often conflict with predominant social practices. For example, although the Constitution prohibits bigamy, polygamous marriages are very common in the southern region. Only the first wife is given the right to place her name beside her husband’s on land registration and certification forms, while the right to land ownership for polygamous wives remains marginalized (8).

In addition to being excluded from land and other natural resources, women have limited access to farm inputs. This is a special concern for women-headed households because their livelihoods and the sustainability of their land depend on such inputs (8).

Although land reforms promoted an intensive process of decentralization and regionalization in order to improve tenure security for land users, land conservation and land distribution, the levels of confidence in local authorities vary across regions. Tenure insecurity is particularly influenced by issues such as land redistribution and land expropriation on the part of the government. Moreover, a user’s absence from land, for a period which varies from two to ten years depending on the regional area, results in the permanent loss of land rights. This causes greater tensions among de facto female-headed households (9).

Even though land reforms have contributed to egalitarian land distribution, land rental markets are very active and are dominated by sharecropping arrangements. Moreover, land reforms in the form of registration and certification which aim to improve tenure security for women are not yet fully enshrined in practice; the traditional gender bias against women cultivating their own land leads single women to depend on male assistance or on renting and sharecropping their land (9).


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