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Insecure land rights for women: a threat to progress on gender equality and sustainable development

Working Group on discrimination against women and girls

Women’s land rights are critical to democracy, peace, justice, sustainable development and security for all. Secure land rights for women set off powerful, continued ripple effects that go a long way toward realizing gender equality and a range of critical Sustainable Development Goals and human rights.

Yet women have been at the center of human rights violations worldwide regarding their rights and access to land. Discriminatory laws and social norms undercut women’s access to land. Women are more harshly affected by land tenure insecurity. The Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice (renamed the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls in 2019) expressed its concern in a position paper on insecure land rights for women.

Key to sustainable development and empowerment

Stronger women’s rights to land and productive assets are linked to a wide range of benefits such as improved living conditions, better nutrition and food sovereignty, better health, higher earnings and individual savings, and more.

Our Working Group has already recognized the importance of women’s land rights in a number of thematic reports, such as the report on discrimination against women in economic and social life, in political and public life, in the area of health and safety and in family.

As established by international standards, women have the right to equality in the enjoyment of all their rights, including the right to access, use, inherit, control, and own land. The global goals set by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development further recognize women’s land rights as a catalyst to ending poverty (Goal 1); seeking to achieve food security and improved nutrition (Goal 2) and achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment (Goal 5).

Despite these and other international supports and commitments, women continue to be denied equal rights to land.

Breaking down barriers to women’s rights to land

States must urgently change the laws and social norms which impose barriers to women’s right to own and access to land in more than half the world. This includes adopting measures to prevent private corporations and investors, powerful local elites, multilateral organizations, regional trade initiatives and family members from discriminating women in their rights to land.  

States should account for the quality, legality and effective implementation, participation and enforceability of land rights for women.

Download the position paper on Women's Land Rights
PDF: English
Word: Español (informal translation)