Securing women’s land and property rights

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A critical step to address HIV, violence, and food security

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Open Society Foundations, The Global Initiative, Landesa, Southern Africa Litigation Centre, ActionAid, Huairou Commission, International Center for Research on Women, Women's Inheritance Now, WLSA, Federation of Women Lawyers, UNDP, Women’s Legal Centre, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, IGED Africa, Klein

In many parts of the world, women’s rights to land and property are systematically denied. Laws give women fewer or less secure rights than men, and discriminatory attitudes and practices undermine them. This leaves many women almost entirely dependent on the men in their lives for basic economic survival and vulnerable to violence, poverty, and food insecurity, particularly if widowed, divorced, single, or in marriages not formally recognized.

As land resources are increasingly contested, these problems have worsened, particularly for rural women.Large-scale land acquisitions remove women farmers.Land degradation from desertification and climate change reduces the availability of fertile land for farming.Through all of this, women are often excluded from land negotiations because they lack official land titles.

This brief examines the importance of women’s land and property rights in the contexts of HIV and AIDS, violence against women, and food security. Land and property rights increase women’s autonomy—decreasing their dependence on men and entrapment in abusive relationships, enabling greater control over sexual relations, and improving their ability to produce food for themselves and their families. This brief examines where and how these rights are protected under international human rights standards and offer strategies to help women effectively claim and enforce their rights.