Gender equality in Burundi: Why does support not extend to women's right to inherit land?

Gender equality in Burundi: Why does support not extend to women's right to inherit land?

With 27,834 km² of surface area and a population of 10.5 million, Burundi’s population density is seven times that of Tanzania and second only to Rwanda’s on the African mainland (World Bank, 2014). Its population grows at an annual rate of 2.4%, and more than 90% of the population lives primarily on agriculture.

These factors make land a vital and scarce resource in Burundi, leading to frequent conflicts and particular complications in questions of inheritance (Kazoviyo & Gahungu, 2011). The situation is even more problematic for women and girls, who traditionally inherit nothing from their fathers. In Burundi, women’s right to inherit land faces the triple barriers of demography, tradition, and the law.

Promoting gender equality and especially women’s right to inherit land is a major focus of women’s-rights activists. Although Burundi has signed and incorporated in its constitution most international instruments promoting gender equality, women’s succession rights do not yet have full legal protection. Since 2004, government legislation on women’s inheritance laws awaits consideration by the National Assembly. “But problems related to the scarcity of land and overpopulation seem to veil the face of leaders who end up believing that a law on female succession would be a problem rather than a solution” (Kazoviyo & Gahungu, 2011, p. 1)

Afrobarometer’s first survey in Burundi, in 2012, provides insights regarding public attitudes toward gender equality. Findings show that majorities of Burundians support women’s rights in general but reject land inheritance by women. This paper examines factors that might contribute to these apparently contradictory views and offers recommendations on how to promote dialogue, sensitization, partnerships, and capacity development in support of women’s land rights in Burundi.

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