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Gender and land reforms: comparative perspectives

Jacobs, Susie (2009) Gender and land reforms: comparative perspectives. Geography compass, 3 (5). pp. 1675-1687. ISSN 1749-8198

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Abstract

Concerns about rising food prices, food security and land grabs have focussed attention on land redistribution and land reform in recent years. The majority of the rural people and rural poor are women, but the issue of gender within land reform is rarely discussed. Agrarian reforms redistribute land either to collectives or to individual households; this article surveys the impact of the latter model of land reform for women, based on case studies from Asia, Africa and Latin America. A mixed picture emerges, but women have been seriously disadvantaged within most programmes by the granting of land title or permits to men as household heads. Husbands have often gained power at their wives' expense. The potential benefits of landholding for women are substantial, however, and calls for women's land rights are increasing. A question concerns what form these should take: customary law often discriminates against women, but individual land titling is likely to result in loss of land, especially among the poor. Redistributionist land reforms that have state backing are more likely to be concerned with equity. In order for such programmes to fulfil their democratic potential, smallholder women must gain rights on the same basis as men, and these must be enforced 'on the ground'.

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