The Communal Land Rights Act and women: Does the Act remedy or entrench discrimination and the distortion of the customary?
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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 examines two inter-related issues. The first is the content and substance of land rights, including the question of where rights vest. The second relates to power over land, particularly control over the allocation and management of land rights. 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 most vehement opposition came from rural women and women’s organisations who argued that the Bill undermined the principle of equality in favour of an alliance with traditional leaders. By contrast, traditional leaders welcomed the Act as a triumph of tradition and African custom.