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12 Pac. Rim L. & Pol'y J. 631 (2003)
Rural Women's Land Rights in Java, Indonesia: Strengthened by Family Law, but Weakened by Land Registration

handle is hein.journals/pacrimlp12 and id is 643 raw text is: .Copyright (0 2003 Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal Association

Jennifer Brown'.
Abstract:  In Java, Indonesia, only about one-third of land title certificates reflect
ownership by women. This lack of registered land ownership can potentially harm
women by depriving them of influence within the household and leaving them vulnerable
in cases of divorce or a spouse's death. This Article argues that effective land
registration mechanisms and legal and social recognition of women's property rights all
play a critical role in protecting women's ownership interests.
Interviews with landowners and government officials in Java reveal that Indonesia's
land registration processes do not effectively advance ownership rights granted under the
nation's family law. Despite the government's efforts to educate the public about land
registration, few women are aware of the registration procedures. Field studies also
indicate that confusion regarding co-ownership rights exists even among government
Despite the fact that Indonesia's land registration processes do not reinforce the
nation's family law, Indonesian women's property interests are not compromised. First,
formal procedures for the transfer of land protect women when land is sold or divided.
Second, customary Javanese practices recognize and protect the concept of marital
community property.  This Article concludes, however, that in other developing
countries, incongruence between legal property rights and land registration systems may
effectively weaken women's land ownership interests.
Globally, women make up a small percentage of all landowners.'
This is despite their high level of involvement in agricultural production and
t This research was funded by the United States Agency for International Development, grant
number LAG-A-00-96-900016-00 (BASIS CRSP Pre-proposal) and grant number 497-G-00-01-00031-00
(Indonesia Land Law Initiative). An earlier version of this piece was submitted to USAID and is posted at I would like to thank Ir. Ibnu Wardono, SH,
MM, Director of the Land Informations Systems Directorate of the National Land Agency (BPN), for his
support of the research and Aniek Agustina Astutiasih, SH, CN, also of BPN, for her invaluable
contributions and assistance during the field research. I especially thank Firli Purwanti, SI, who was
instrumental in orchestrating the field visits and whose contributions to the research were invaluable. Ms.
Purwanti is an Indonesian attorney working for the Convention Watch Working Group of the Women and
Gender Studies Center at the University of Indonesia.
* Jennifer Brown is a staff attorney at the Rural Development Institute (RDI), Seattle, Washington
( More information about RDI is available at
A commonly cited United Nations estimate states that women make up one-half of the world's
population and do two-thirds of the labor, but only earn 10% of the world's income and own only 1% of the
world's property. Report of the World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality,
Development and Peace, 20-21st mtg., at 8, A/CONF.94/35 (1980) (held in Copenhagen, July 14-30,
1980). This, however, is only a rough estimate. Exact figures on the percentage of land owned by women
are very rarely tracked by national censuses, creating difficulty to state with any precision how much land

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