Government creating land rights for men at expense of women

Yesterday, 31st August 2022, Dr. Margaret A. Rugadya (PhD) brought to our attention her paper titled: “Titling of Customary Tenure is not a fix for Women’s Land Right: a review of Evidence and Practice”, published on 1st July 2020. She did so as she delivered the keynote at the launch to the Stand For Her Land Campaign Uganda Launch at the Sheraton Kampala.

I was so intrigued and this morning I searched for it online and through Academia I was able to download a pdf copy. Oh my! Here is the abstract read and make own judgement:

“The main thrust of this paper is that titling is inept at safeguarding women’s land rights on customary tenure. Intentionally or unintentionally, titling is unable to uphold favorable pre-existing claims and ‘rights’ of women on customary tenure, that are already socially recognized by traditional norms. These are often lost, modified, or erased as customary tenure gains formality.

Neither the replacement theorists nor the adaptation or the hybrid theories favors women’s land rights, as none anticipate the existence of embedded and functional women’s role-related, legitimate social ‘rights or claims as part of the bundle of rights under customary tenure. It is, therefore, illusionary to expect titling to advance women’s land rights, since none of its processes or tools are cognizant of this distinct category of rights on customary.

Instead, the titling process formalizes inequity in land rights, by creating new rights for men at the expense of women by worsening existing vulnerabilities of and creating ‘new additional conditions’ that intensify the loss of rights for women, hence deteriorating tenure relations that previously held limited favor for women on customary tenure.

Review of seven pilot projects shows, that women’s land rights are best negotiated at individual households with partners within a family or homestead, even though agreements to restructure such rights are often reached between partners at this stage, they easily crumble under peer pressure from males in extended families and clans and intimidation or threats meted out to women. Innovation, awareness creation, exchange, and learning ameliorate the situation.

However, the challenge is the majority of the titling projects do not anticipate the embedded nature of social rights in land accorded to women under customary, hence an absence of methods and tools to capture them. Accepting that form (non-absolute) and function (use for household welfare) is the basis for the definition of tenure rights for women in a socio-cultural and ecological mode, is part of the solution for a more inclusive titling process on customary tenure.”

Which begs the question, for whose benefit is the Government of Uganda pushing exogenously designed titling initiatives, such as Certificates of Customary Ownership, which are proven disenfranchising the majority of Uganda’s population, the women?

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