|Changing family structures- defining Uganda’s social crisis context|
|Wednesday, 30 April 2014 17:10|
Following on from her ‘PLATFORM2013’ article on ‘Land inequality and family planning’ Dr. Viola Nilah Nyakato discusses recent property-related family conflicts in Uganda that she believes highlight the nature of gendered property inequality in Uganda, and the country’s need to implement a legal framework to protect women’s property rights.
I am concerned that Uganda still lacks a contextualized framework within which woman’s property rights are recognized, enhanced and protected. Historically, Uganda’s efforts to legislate such rights have been dominated by debates where the dominant opinion is that granting Ugandan women property rights is an attack on traditional family and cultural values. Most recently, the ‘marriage and divorce’ bill proposed in Uganda in March 2013 lead to widespread resistance by religious, cultural and political bodies. Amongst other issues, this bill was meant to provide a legal framework for a way to share family property in a more gender-fair manner.
My 2010 study on women’s land rights in Mbarara District Southwestern Uganda took the form of a situational analysis that sought to explain the links between gender divisions in land ownership and rights, and how this inequality shapes decision-making dynamics in rural homes in Mbarara’s district. It’s useful to reflect on the findings of this study when considering the extent (or rather, lack) of protection in the form of a legalized framework, afforded to Ugandan women in times of relationship crisis.
The study indicated that men claim the symbolic role of head-of-household in 95% of homes. Low uptake of family planning in a situation where there is a need for family planning practices (Uganda’s fertility rate of 6.9 children per women is at the highest end of global fertility rates) indicate that women have limited bargaining power within their own homes and restricted influence over important family resources and assets. While seven in ten women in the region felt insecure on their family land, only two in every ten men shared such fears. In 93% of cases where land was purchased, the decision to do so was made by a man, and in 78% of cases where land was sold, a man was, again, the decision maker.
Taking these results into consideration highlights the improbability of Ugandan women ‘naturally’ getting a fair land-rights deal in the context of a family crisis. A woman’s property rights very much depend on the quality of her relationship with the husband. In the event of the death of a husband, or where there is a divorce, separation, or an extra-marital relationship, a woman’s status in her home and, in particular, her rights to the land she lives on is at stake. In light of this, a legal framework to protect women’s property rights in Uganda is an urgent human rights issue.
My view is that given this state of affairs in Uganda, and taking human rights considerations into account, both women and men need equal and secure property rights enshrined in constitutionally accepted family property law. I shall continue my campaign to promote this.
* At the time this blog was submitted, Dr. Viola N Nyakato had meetings scheduled with district leadership to make arrangements for a public dialogue on her article on ‘Land Inequality and Family Planning’ featured in PLATFORM2013' (Download the Platform 2013 Publication)
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