Securing a right to land for women, we expect to find that it will protect her economic security and also her livelihoods, as well as her rights in divorce and inheritance. We don’t often think it will also protect her right to say ‘no’. Yet, some studies highlight that securing a land right for a woman, goes far beyond the direct obvious benefits of secure tenure. These additional benefits include assuring control over her sex life.
A report by OSI, called Securing Women’s Land and Property Rights’ refers to research which makes distinct connections between securing control of economic assets, in particular land, as a important for women to also have control over their sex lives.
To give some examples:
- One study from Western Kenya shows that the integration of women’s property and inheritance rights with HIV prevention and treatment reduces HIV risk.
- Research in Kerala, India shows that 49 % of women with no property reported physical violence compared to only 7 % of women who did own property. This is an enormous difference.
These would both suggest that feeling secure about property and livelihood, make women also feel secure in her home and regards her emotional relationships.
A quote from Rasghida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, also brings this home:
“Inequality and sex-based discrimination with regard to land ownership and its effective control, is the single most critical contributor to violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of women among the agrarian economies of most developing countries.”
As does one from Caroline Sweetman, in a paper for Oxfam:
“Efforts to fight HIV and AIDS around the world are ineffective in protecting young women in particular from infection because they fail to focus sufficiently on the need for women to have control of economic assets if they are ever to gain control over their sex lives.”(Caroline Sweetman, ‘How Title Deeds Make Sex Safer: Women’s Property Rights in an Era of HIV,’ From Poverty to Power: Background Paper, Oxfam, 2008.)
It is easy to forget or overlook the links between issues such as land and reproductive rights, yet so enlightening when links like these are made. When we work in the NGO sector, we are all too often encouraged to focus on only one topic, with little time to explore the connecting issues. Yet, when you think about it, it makes so much sense: providing a woman with secure ownership and decision making power over the place where she lives and earns her livelihood, allows her to make empowered choices in other parts of her life and most especially inside her own home.
It makes we wonder, how can we highlight these links more often into our work? Or are there ways to strengthen these benefits by being aware of them?