[News] Bolivian Womens Right to Land Thwarted by Patriarchal Traditions
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 15 12:45:59 EST 2010
Bolivian Womens Right to Land Thwarted by Patriarchal Traditions
Written by Franz Chávez interviews land reform consultant GABY GÓMEZ-GARCÍA
Thursday, 14 January 2010 12:48
(IPS) - Bolivian legislation on land ownership is
highly favourable to women, but a lack of
awareness makes it difficult to enforce these
laws and ensure that women are able to obtain -
and maintain - control of the land they farm.
This country's legislation establishing women
farmers right to land ownership is among the
most advanced in Latin America, yet women
continue to be forced off of the land to which
they are legally entitled and expelled from their
communities, according to Gaby Gómez-García, a
consultant at the governmental National Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA).
Patriarchal social traditions in indigenous
communities and the high rate of illiteracy among
rural women are the main obstacles to
successfully enforcing the legislation, said
Gómez-García, who stressed the need to raise
awareness in order to harmonise the countrys
laws with the customs and practices of indigenous peoples.
Roughly 60 percent of the population of this
South American country of 10.4 million people belong to indigenous groups.
And although women make up just over half of the
indigenous population, they account for only 47.6
percent of the 3.5 million Bolivians who live in
rural areas, according to official statistics.
Gómez-García is co-author of the book "La tierra
tiene nombre de mujer" (The Land Has a Womans
Name), published by INRA. The book highlights the
fact that property deeds for 164,401 hectares of
land were allocated to 10,299 women between
January 2006 and January 2009, as part of the
government's land reform efforts.
Evo Morales, the country's first-ever native
president, first took office in January 2006, and
was re-elected on Dec. 10 to a second term that begins on Jan. 22.
By comparison, only 4,125 land ownership deeds
were granted to women between 1997 and 2005.
But although significant progress has been made
over the last few years, a great deal more still
needs to be done, Gómez-García said in this interview with IPS.
Q: What guarantees and protections does the
current legislation offer to women with regard to land ownership?
A: Legislation favourable to women has been in
force since the adoption of the National Agrarian
Reform Institute Act in 1996, which established
recognition of womens right to land ownership.
Under the Community Reorganisation Act of 2006,
the governments policies have targeted
disadvantaged sectors, and therefore encompass
the recognition of womens rights, but the
progress made in this area has never been measured.
Q: Have the advances made with regard to legislation been sufficient?
A: We have come to realise that while progress
has been made in terms of formally recognising
womens rights through property deeds, this is not enough.
Beginning in 2010, the government officials who
go to local communities to carry out field
studies will demand active participation by
women, but greater awareness is needed of the
importance of this additional task in order to
transform the structure of land ownership.
Q: Does INRAs work end with the granting of property deeds?
A: Even after the deeds have been awarded, women
are still unaware of their rights. Many of them
do not know how to read and write, and they do
not realise that the land is not exclusively owned by their husbands.
This is a very sensitive issue in communities in
the Andean region, where the structure of land
ownership is patriarchal. We do not even know
exactly how many indigenous cultures adhere to this patriarchal model.
Q: In marriages between two people from different
cultural groups, is womens right to land recognised?
A: When women get married, they leave their own
communities and move to their husbands villages.
There are cases where women are abandoned and
expelled from their former husbands communities,
and then try to return to their home communities
when they are old, but they are not allowed back
because their children have a different surname
(indicating membership of a different indigenous community).
When marriages break down, there is little
tolerance in the communities and women are left
without protection. INRA cant do anything about
it because communities must rule themselves
within their own territory, under the system of
autonomy and self-determination.
Q: How much resistance is there among the men in
communities against the granting of ownership deeds to women?
A: In the case of smallholdings, there is a great
deal of resistance and women must fight hard to
be recognised as owners. But when they achieve
this recognition, they gain social prestige, and
their husbands cannot beat them anymore.
The biggest challenge is when community property
is involved and the state cannot do anything.
Women are powerless when the community
intervenes, because only a husband or nephew can
assume ownership of the land, and women are
relegated to the role of domestic workers and subjected to greater poverty.
Q: How much still needs to be done to ensure
recognition of these rights by society at large?
A: There is a need to work with women to help
them realise that they have rights. They cannot
exercise their rights if they are not aware of
them, and this is a way to prevent them from
being expelled from their communities.
INRA ends its involvement after turning over
ownership deeds, but we want to foster spaces for
dialogue, because we cannot simply impose our own
rules and override the cultural practices of indigenous peoples.
There has to be a process leading to the
communitys recognition of women and their
relationship to the land. But financial support
is needed in order to raise awareness and ensure
respect for womens rights, while recognising the
rights of indigenous peoples at the same time.
Q: Are the existing laws sufficient to achieve these goals?
A: The current legislation provides ample formal
recognition of womens rights, but we have to
work on harmonising the laws with community norms and practices.
For example, in the (central) highlands valley
region, there is little likelihood of women being
forced off of their land because they have a
great deal of power. Many of them are the heads
of their families, and the plots of land are
small. They have fought hard for what they have.
In the lowlands (the plains and Amazon jungle in
the north and east), I saw for myself that
inter-ethnic marriages involve a great deal of
violence. Women must tolerate a lot of abuse and
are not defended by the community.
But among the Cavineño indigenous people (based
in the northern provinces of Beni and Pando),
women can have three husbands, and a woman with
three husbands can very successfully administer
her land with three men working for her.
Q: What experiences have emerged from the
workshops aimed at listening to womens demands?
A: One was held in November in the city of Oruro,
with the participation of judicial authorities
from the National Agrarian Court. It sparked a
great deal of interest in learning more about
womens rights in their communities.
The new Bolivian constitution (in effect since
February) states that each community should be
ruled and regulated in accordance with its own
customs and practices, and this is important,
because the rights of the weak must not be violated.
These meetings allow for dialogue between the
government authorities and indigenous leaders,
who concur that discrimination against women is
unjust, and have promised to seek ways to bring
national laws and community traditions into line
to ensure respect for womens rights.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the News