This brief explores the reform of land tenure institutions which re-emerged in the 1990s, and asks if these reforms are any more gender sensitive than those of the past?The paper highlights that a focus of the recent reforms has been on land titling, designed to promote security of tenure and stimulate land markets. The reforms have often been driven by domestic and external neoliberal coalitions, with funding from global and regional organisations which have argued that private property rights are essential for a dynamic agricultural sector. However, democratic transitions, though often fragile, have opened up new possibilities for agrarian reform, placing inequalities in land distribution back on national agendas. The involvement of social movements, including women’s movements, and their domestic and international allies has been the other hallmark of recent policy debates on land.The research finds that the new generation of land tenure reforms is not necessarily more gender equitable than earlier efforts, even though women’s ability to gain independent access to land is increasingly on the statutes. In particular, the findings show that:in recent years, multilateral agencies have supported gender equality goals. At the same time, they have been influential in advising governments on how to pursue a market-driven land reform programme. These two goals are in tension, especially in terms of their impacts on low-income womenpolicy makers in national and international agencies need to be vigilant about the kinds of informal community-based institutions that are being legitimised and strengthened as appropriate decision-making forums for dealing with land. A key area for policy attention is how to strengthen and democratise these institutions to deliver social and gender justicethere has been concern about the ways in which “traditionalist” discourses and “customary” practices are frequently used to deprive women of equal rights. However, criticism of customary tenure should not lead to the oversimplified conclusion that land markets are a gender- neutral terrainthere is recognition about the limitations in law as a vehicle for social change, acknowledging that there may be enormous resistance to equitable practices.[adapted from author]
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