Gender Issues in Land Tenure under Customary Law
Under all systems of law in many African countries, land ownership is anchored in patriarchy. Law can be used to reinforce or make permanent social injustices, and, in the realm of women’s rights, legal rules may give rise to or exacerbate gender inequality. Legal systems can also become obstacles when change is required: often the de jure position, which may provide for gender neutrality, cannot be achieved in practice due to numerous obstacles. There are three issues to be noted with regard to law in its governance of tenure relationships: • Statute books contain legal rules and principles that are or can be seen as legitimizing the subordination of women. • The structure and administration of laws can occasion the subordination of women. • The socioeconomic and patriarchal realities in many African countries prevent the translation of abstract rights into real substantive rights.