Property & Wealth

Women get lost in debate on land and property rights

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The issue of Women's Land and Property rights is often conveniently lost in the smoke of the smouldering fires of emotional service delivery debates about land reform and income. 

If we are to confront the so-called inequality gap, then we need to dissect the many (and often overlapping) areas of inequity. There should not just be focus on the gap in packages between the highest paid executive and lowest paid worker in a large corporation

The often outrageous gender penalties that rural women pay in a still largely patriarchal society, should also be given proper consideration.

In a recent article on transformation, Plaas (the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies) correlated Women’s rights to land and property directly to one of the many critical steps required to be taken in connection with countering HIV, gender violence and food insecurity.

To put it simply: land and property rights increase autonomy and, in the case of women, decrease their dependence on men. This in turn enables them to avoid entrapment in abusive relationships and even to play a greater role in sexual relations.

Greater freedom can positively influence women’s ability to acquire resources so they can produce food for themselves and feed their often extended families.

Many SA women entirely dependent on men

In South Africa we pride ourselves on being custodians of one of the world's most advanced constitutional democracies. Its success has been proven in recent times with the powers of the executive and president placed under the oversight of parliament and the office of the Public Protector.

Yet rural women's rights often appear to be have been overlooked or, in some cases, even systematically denied in that hazy world of discriminatory attitudes and racist practices. Many of these women are systematically undermined.

This leaves many women disadvantaged and almost entirely dependent on the man in their lives for their economic and social survival.

It also leaves them vulnerable to rape, insecurity and violence. Even more so, when they happen to be divorced, single, widowed or in a marriage that is not formally recognised.

(In the next issues we will continue to unpack and discuss the many issues surrounding the economic liberation of women in SA.

by Eve van Basten

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