Problem

Discrimination against rural women

Other Names:
Prejudicial treatment of women in non-urban areas
Nature:
Legal obstacles to the maximum utilization of women's economic potential are interrelated and tend to be mutually reinforcing. Several types of customary, religious and civil laws limit women's access to land and other forms of income producing property. Customary land tenure systems frequently give women fewer rights than men to land and valuable livestock. Customary and religious laws often prohibit women from inheriting real property or allow them a much smaller share of inherited property than male heirs. Customary and religious marriage and family laws exist which deny women the legal capacity to own or administer property or act in commercial matters in their own name. As a result women are not able to acquire land by tenancy or sales contracts. Women's rights to landownership are also limited by the nonrecognition, by customary, religious and civil legal systems, of women's labour within the family. This results in women not having rights to property acquired during marriage through the labours of both parties. In certain cases, civil laws also limit women's property rights by requiring courts to apply customary law. The areas of customary and religious law most frequently incorporated into civil law, either through judicial decisions or by civil codes, are in the areas of marriage and inheritance which are the two major sources of laws which discriminate against women in relation to property ownership.

These factors frequently result in rural women not owning of having the legal capacity to administer the land which they cultivate. Aside from the inequities of the situation there are various negative consequences for development. Lack of landownership also limits women's participation in cooperative organizations, both credit generating and other types of collective organizations which are important elements of development. Cooperative regulations and by-laws frequently limit membership to landowners and or heads of family, thereby eliminating an important source of credit and participation for rural women in development at the grass roots level. In many countries where land has been nationalized and landownership is no longer a factor, membership in cooperatives and collective organizations is often limited to heads of family, thereby eliminating the participation of the majority of rural women. The head of family concept is prevalent in land reform legislation thereby eliminating the majority of women from receiving the full benefits of these reforms. Land reform legislation which merely prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex does not ensure land access to women.

Land is still the most important form of collateral for agricultural credit. If, due to lack of landownership, women are not able to obtain credit for agricultural inputs, and must resort to high interest unsecured loans or to the mortgaging or advanced sale of crops, the land they cultivate will be less economically productive. This may result in women contributing less to rural economies and having less economic incentive to better utilize their productive resources.

Claim:
Recognition of the need to fully integrate rural women in development is essential if women are to receive their equitable share of development benefits. In addition to equitable and moral considerations, the underutilization of one half of the rural labour force does not make economic sense, especially when increasing human productivity is a major objective of development efforts.
Broader Problems:
Discrimination against women
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Subject(s):
Society Women
Amenities Rural
Amenities Urban
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Date of last update
09.02.1997 – 00:00 CET