Using the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights to Secure Women's Access to Land in Africa
Insofar as there exists a de jure or de facto significant difference in opportunities for access to land in any country, and that difference is based purely on whether one is a man or a woman, there is discrimination. Such discrimination violates international human rights law if it is unable to pass the international standards of "objective and reasonable justification"1 or of reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means and the aim sought.2 In many African countries, there is both de jure and de facto discrimination against women in opportunities to acquire, hold, and deal in land. This chapter explores possibilities and difficulties of using the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights to secure women's access to land.
The chapter is divided into four sections: an overview of the situation regarding women's access to land in Africa; the international principle of nondiscrimination and its relevance to women's access to land; the African Charter, possibilities and constraints; and some strategies for the future.
Access to land in many African countries is governed by a dual system of law. Customary law and statutory law apply alongside each other often raising situations of internal conflict of laws and general confusion in case law and in popular understanding of the law. The diversity of customary and legislative frameworks for land ownership in Africa