The Communal Land Rights Act and Women: Does the Act Remedy or Entrench Discrimination and the Distortion of the Customary?

"This paper discusses the likely impact of the Communal Land Rights Act (CLRA) of 2004 on the land rights of rural women. It asks whether the Act is likely to enhance or undermine tenure security, not only for women, but for rural people in general. In the context of declining rates of marriage it focuses particularly on the problems facing single women. It begins with an account of the parliamentary process and the last minute changes to previous drafts. The Bill was opposed by all sectors of civil society with the singular exception of traditional leaders. The paper argues that the Act in fact has little to do with custom or tradition. The paper describes the layered and ‘nested’ nature of land rights within African rural areas. It focuses on the status of women’s land rights within the family. The paper argues that the consequences of colonial and apartheid misrepresentations and distortions of pre-existing systems of land rights were particularly disastrous for women. The next section deals with the issue of power relations and accountability and discusses the impact of power relations on women’s land rights. It describes and explains the intersection between the CLRA and the newly-enacted TLGFA. Finally the paper asks whether the CLRA is likely to enhance or undermine security of tenure for women and for rural people generally."