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Opinions of Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Columnist: Rosemond Akuorkor Adjetey

Women deserve more in land rights

The 2016 population census, according to the World Bank, indicates that women form about 50.2% of Ghana’s total population, making them the majority. However, the census revealed that women are sometimes the most disadvantaged in some instances and are only considered passive in those instances.

For instance, in land issues, their voices are either silent or low. Women are mostly discriminated against during land issues because they are considered as ‘not worthy’ to deal with those issues.

Though there are some gender provisions in the Land Bill 2018, which outline the roles and protect each gender, women do not enjoy the same luxury that their male counterparts enjoy when it comes to land issues.

Section 11 of the Bill prohibits discriminatory practices when dealing with land issues. The section states that, “A decision or practice in respect of land under customary tenure shall be void if it discriminates on grounds of: a.) Gender, race, colour, social or economic status”.

This means that both genders are to enjoy same rights when it comes to ownership of land, either through hereditary or straight ownership.

Similarly, Section 22 of the same Bill talks about the compensation of the damage caused. This instance is where women are mostly discriminated against because they are mostly voiceless during discussions on land and any compensation received by the family is not shared equitably.

Often the women are ignored completely and their portion, if any, is given to their husbands or the family/clan head. The section is also gender-sensitive and ensures fairness and equity in the distribution of compensations.

Nonetheless, Section 44 talks about restriction on transfer of land by spouse. It states that, “In the absence of a written agreement to the contrary by the spouse in a marriage, a spouse shall not, in respect of land right or interest in land acquired for valuable consideration during marriage, sell or dispose of interest or do anything that can affect the right of the other spouse without the written consent of the other spouse, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld.”

This section protects women in marriages where they are considered to be co-owners with their husbands and vice versa. With this, women are given some form of authority to express their views, though other factors prevent that from happening. Pressure from the man’s external family and the tradition in Ghanaian homes where men are given all the authority to take decisions in the home hinders the full implementation of this section.

Section 94 of the Bill deals with the application for registration of lands in Ghana. Article 4 of Section 94 of the Bills states that, “An application for registration of land or an interest in the land acquired during marriage shall state the spouses in the marriage as the applicant unless a contrary intention is expressed in the conveyance.”

This also gives women in marriages the rights to become a co-owner of their husband’s lands. Women in this instance are protected to enjoy lands that belong to the husbands and are not expected to be discriminated against in such issues.

Similarly, Article 5 of the same section states that, “Where only one of the spouses is stated as the applicant, that spouse shall be presumed to have applied on behalf of the spouse and the other spouse unless a contrary intention is expressed in the conveyance.”

This makes the wife a signatory of the land but this also gives the husbands some authorities because, as the family head, they will be allowed to sign the registration of the land, which will also have legal issues in the future.

Also in agriculture, women across the regions in the country are the sole providers of food for the families but their rights to land come mostly under patriarchal practices.

These women also lack capacity to access modern technological trends in agriculture which devalues their produce.

After toiling on the land to plant the crop, they face the challenge of getting quality facilities to store the produce and means of marketing it to the wider market.

In its quest to fight for the rights of women on equality in accessing land, the Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT) explained that even though the Land Bill, 2018 was well drafted, it is important that the gender provisions are not watered down during deliberations on the Bill.

According to the group, there are some provisions that need to be improved to ensure that the Bill addresses gender equality and social inclusion issues in a better way.

They added that the bill also does not effectively target socially-excluded persons, especially persons with disability.

At a stakeholders’ meeting to discuss the Land Bill, 2018, Madam Patricia Blankson Akakpo, Programs Manager, NETRIGHT, explained that section 7 of the Land Bill under the customary tenancy must ensure that information is made available to women and entrenched discriminatory cultural practices abolished with emphasis on non-discrimination.

The group opined that the interpretation section must contain a definition on what will be deemed to be discriminatory cultural practices.

They stated that social status should also be clearly defined to include persons with disability for the avoidance of doubt since research indicates that women with disability suffer additional discrimination.

Recommendations

1) The group recommended that the Lands Commission should strictly enforce the Land Transaction and Acquisition Guidelines to ensure equity in the land sector

2) Gender awareness and sensitisation training programmes should be organised for all the stakeholders, including – The Lands Commission, Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Traditional Council and Authorities, Parliament, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Women Right Organisations (WROs) etc.

3) Land Banks should be established to facilitate women’s easy access to land

4) The Government should provide soft loans to rural farmers, especially women farmers, to carry out their agri-business and related activities in the food value chain.

5) The Government should have the political will to prioritize gender issues and allot the necessary funds to the agricultural sector.

6) Gender-disaggregated data should be available, credible and accessible to policy makers (especially MoFA) Development Partners, the private sector and civil society organisations in the agriculture and land sectors.

7) Civil society organisations, particularly the Women’s Rights Organizations, should be well trained and resourced to enable them to enhance their advocacy and training roles on sustainable basis.

BY ROSEMOND AKUORKOR ADJETEY
Rosemond.adjetey@yahoo.com