Who Owns the Land? Gender and Land-Titling Programmes in Latin America

Full citation: Deere, C. D. and Leon, M., “Who Owns the Land? Gender and Land-Titling Programmes in Latin America,” 1(3) JOURNAL OF AGRARIAN CHANGE 440 (July 2001). – The main focus of state intervention in Latin American agriculture in the 1990s was on land-titling programs, designed to promote security of tenure and enliven land markets. A review of seven of these projects suggests that they were often designed without sufficient attention to civil codes and marital regimes that protect women’s property rights. They often ignored that a household’s endowment of land may consist of three forms of property: the wife’s, the husband’s, and jointly owned property. By assuming that the family farm is owned by the male household head, these projects trampled upon women’s ownership rights. Nonetheless, the share of female beneficiaries of land-titling projects has been much higher than the share of women adjudicated land under the agrarian reforms of previous decades. This is partly because the primary way that women acquire land is through inheritance, and inheritance appears to be more gender equitable than other manners of acquiring land. It is also due to the impact of the more gender-equitable agrarian legislation of the current period, itself a product of the impact of women’s movements on the state. [Threats to Women’s Land Tenure Security and Effectiveness of Interventions – Annotated Bibliography]

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