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17 Buff. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 75 (2011)
Catch-22: The Role of Development Institutions in Promoting Gender Equality in Land Law - Lessons Learned in Post-Conflict Pluralist Africa

handle is hein.journals/bufhr17 and id is 79 raw text is: CATCH-22: THE ROLE OF DEVELOPMENT
Amrita Kapur*
This article explores the contours of development policies as they
have been applied to pluralistic legal systems, with a specific focus on their
effects on women in post-conflict African countries. Drawing on research
that firmly establishes the importance of women's social, economic and po-
litical participation in post-conflict development, it identifies the flaws in
gender-neutral land titling initiatives introduced and encouraged by devel-
opment institutions. It then describes the gender-sensitive laws enacted as a
response to continuing gender discriminatory practices in Rwanda,
Mozambique and Uganda. While taking into account the existence of cus-
tomary law, these laws explicitly affirm women's rights with respect to
land, property and inheritance.
However, the central government's reliance on local informal gov-
ernance structures to apply and enforce these laws creates a Catch-22
situation, whereby the local elites with the power to enforce the law are
precisely the people who continue to apply gender-discriminatory custom-
ary norms, particularly with respect to land rights. The experiences of the
three progressive societies mentioned above are analyzed to provide insight
* Amrita Kapur is the International Advisor for the Women's Justice Unit with
JSMP, a human rights organization in Timor-Leste. She has previously worked for
the International Development Law Organization, the International Center for
Transitional Justice, and the International Criminal Court, and practiced domestic
criminal law in Australian courts as a Legal Aid lawyer and Prosecution Officer.
Amrita holds a Masters degree in International Law from New York University
where she was awarded an International Human Rights Fellowship, in addition to
psychology and law degrees from UNSW, Australia. She can be contacted at
The author would like to thank Prof. Frank Upham for his comments and
encouragement, and the participants of the 2009 NYU Emerging Human Rights
Scholars Conference. All errors are the author's alone.
Please note, an article by the author is cited in this piece: Amrita Kapur,
Two Faces of Change: The Need for a Bi-Directional Approach to Improve Wo-
men's Land Rights in Plural Legal Systems. This article was published as Paper No.
2 of the IDLO Customary Justice Working Papers Series in 2010. It is available
online at: http://www.idlo.int/Download.aspx?Id=222&LinkUrl=Publications/WP2

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