Uganda: Exclusion of Women from Land Ownership—The “Lost Clause”

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1 Nov 2004

The Land (Amendment) Act came into force on 18 March 2004, signaling important progress toward women’s equality. In August 2000, Equality Now issued Women’s Action 17.1 calling for an amendment to the Ugandan Land Act 1998 that would provide for co-ownership of land between spouses. A similar provision had previously been passed by Parliament, but was left out of the final 1998 Act as a consequence of technical revisions and was subsequently known as the “lost clause.” Under the 2004 Act, spouses are granted a right to security of occupancy, defined as a right to have access to and live on family land, as well as a right to reasonably withhold their consent on sale or other transactions that would affect their rights to family land. Although this provision in the Land (Amendment) Act is an important advancement, security of occupancy falls considerably short of the spousal co-ownership provided for in the “lost clause.”

The Uganda Land Alliance, Uganda Women Network and other local women’s groups, together with Equality Now and its members, lobbied intensively for the reinstatement of the spousal co-ownership clause omitted from the Land Act 1998. Spousal co-ownership would secure women’s access to land, and enhance their ability to remain in the family home in the event of divorce or widowhood. Under the current provisions, security of occupancy is dependent on an existing spousal relationship and terminates on divorce or death of the husband. It therefore continues to leave divorced and widowed women and their children particularly vulnerable. As co-owners, women would not only be better protected, but would also have the right to participate fully in the management of family land, making decisions on what crops to grow and how to allocate resources. A woman’s claim to family land in Uganda has traditionally been tenuous at best. Although women make up 80% of the agricultural labor force, only 7% of all women own land.

The Constitution of Uganda, adopted in 1995, provides in Article 33 that “women shall have a right to equal treatment with men, and that right shall include equal opportunity in political, economic and social activities.” Uganda is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and is obligated under Article 23 to “take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.” It is also a signatory to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights which mandates in Article 18, Section 3, that “The State shall ensure the elimination of every discrimination against women and also ensure the protection of the rights of the woman…as stipulated under international declarations and conventions.”

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the President and the Minister for Water, Land and Environment as set out below. Congratulate them on the important amendments to Ugandan law, which provide for security of occupancy of land. Encourage them to continue with reforms that would ensure the equal rights of men and women in Uganda in all spheres, including land ownership.

His Excellency Yoweri Museveni
President of Uganda
Parliamentary Building
P.O. Box 7168
Kampala, UGANDA
Fax: +256-41-235459/244012

The Honorable Col. Kahinda Otafiire
Minister for Water, Land and Environment
P.O. Box 7096
Kampala, UGANDA
Fax: +256-41-230891