06 Jul 2023
Survey, Mapping & Spatial Planning
Research & Analysis
Posted06 Jul 2023
Recently at LEI we’ve been having some discussions on this very topic. Some of us thought the evidence was clear cut – of course joint titling is an essential step to achieving gender equality! Others thought that examples on the ground would show a more nuanced – and perhaps negative – perspective. We put intern Madison Durham to the task, drawing on the experiences from LEI’s Mekong Region Land Governance project.
Whether encouraged by incentives, or made mandatory, joint titling has become a popular tool among development practitioners to avoid the default position that land is recorded only in the name of one owner, typically a man. In the context of land, joint titling (aka joint registration) refers to the practice of documenting the names of both members of a couple as the legal owners of marital property, or a home in which they cohabit. Co-ownership is the outcome, but this can take different forms. Let’s consider a husband and wife who co-own their family home:
So far, so clear, but there is a lot of nuance involved.
What property are we talking about? In countries such as Thailand, any property owned prior before the marriage is separate. Only the marital property (either purchased post-marriage, or cohabited by the couple) should be jointly owned. But if inheritance processes are dominantly patrilineal, women will continue to lost out in the property ownership stakes.
Should we only consider formal marriages? De facto and non-registered marriages remain the norm in many contexts, but may not be viewed the same as ‘marriage’ under the law. In the case of Rwanda, many authors have raised concerns that women living in de facto relationships were excluded from joint titling initiatives. Polygamy is another conundrum, in terms of how to legislate as well as how to ensure the most equitable outcomes.
Whilst there are a number of research papers exploring this topic, it’s clear that there is more to be done, particularly in understanding the direct impact of reforms. For now, the research tells us that:
Joint titling can increase security of tenure by
However, the research also identifies some limitations:
So what should we do? Some good practices have emerged, including:
*This article has been adapted from an internal LEI paper that Madison Durham authored.
Bayisenge, J. (2018). From Male to Joint Land Ownership: Women’s Experiences of the Land Tenure Reform Programme in Rwanda. Journal of Agrarian Change 18(3), 588–605.
Cherchi, L. et al (2018). Incentives for Joint Land Titling: Experimental Evidence from Uganda. Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty.
Mor, T. (2016). Land Rights for Women Deter Violence and Leverage Equality. Women Deliver.
Panda, P, & Agarwal B. (2005). Marital Violence, Human Development and Women’s Property Status in India. World Development 33(5), 823–850.
Vanhees, K. (2014). “Property Rights for Women in Rwanda: Access to Land for Women Living in De Facto Unions”. Master Thesis, Ghent University.
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