Gender, headship, and the life cycle: Landownership in four Asian countries

Gender, headship, and the life cycle: Landownership in four Asian countries

Despite increasing evidence that households do not always function as one, policies regarding land and property rights are often formulated at the household level, assuming the primary adult male is the landowner.

Because land policy reform has typically focused on changing household, rather than individual, rights to land, many of the data are collected at the household rather than the individual level. As a result of a combination of these factors, securing women’s land rights has remained a largely unaddressed issue by policymakers.

So as to inform the formulation of policies and interventions to strengthen women’s land rights, this paper analyzes nationally representative data from Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam to understand the processes by which men and women acquire land; the social, cultural, and legal institutions surrounding gender and landownership; and the role of individual and household characteristics influencing an individual’s ability to own land.

The reserachers' findings that women own less land than do men across different types of household structures and that gender inequality increases with household landholdings suggests that women’s land rights need to be strengthened within marriage and protected should the marriage dissolve. Although the impacts of gender-sensitive land policy reform are not well researched, early findings on policy reforms such as joint titling in Vietnam show that policies to strengthen women’s land rights have the potential to improve women’s well-being as well as their children’s without detrimental effects on productivity.

Findings of gender inequalities in intrahousehold land allocation and of increasing inequality as households accumulate land suggest an agenda for future research and policy that strengthens the land rights of women, particularly within marriage

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