As we celebrate the International Women’s day today, emphasis should be put to the extent to which some of the obligations have been achieved with regard to women’s basic needs including shelter, access to land and land security etc. The state of shelter development in Uganda shows that, with the bulk of its urban population in informal settlements, there is lack of security of tenure.
A facet of this problem arises from the nature of the land tenure system in the country over the decades. Access to housing is invariably linked to land and in effect, access to and control over land. Historically, the land tenure system has resulted in inequalities in control and ownership of land-this has particularly been the case in regard to women: contributing to almost 70% of labour in agricultural production and over 90% in food production, women and the children they support constitute the majority. They are the most affected by lack of security of tenure and discriminatory conditions as regards legal access to land and housing. In fact, the land tenure system, both in customary practice and statutory form, has historically underscored gender inequality, with Women having primarily only ‘usufruct right’ without control and ownership.
Relatedly, women have had no control over the ‘use of land’ or ‘income derived from land’ and often faced dispossession by male members of families. In terms of housing, this has meant that women have had no say in use of land or incomes for shelter –related needs and have been evicted from houses after the death of spouses.
The 1995 Constitution and the post 1995 law reforms, efforts have endeavored to address the problem of legal security of tenure within the context of access to and control over land. The constitution recognizes the right to private property and in terms of land and shelter; it implicitly recognized women’s equal right to access to land and housing.
The Land Act 1998 reaffirms the right and interests of both women and people with disabilities as regards land is guaranteed under the Act-to that end, not only is access to land ensured, discrimination against women and people with disabilities and Children by way of customs or traditions, that denies ‘access to ownership , occupation or use of land or impose conditions that violate the constitution is prohibited. Further, security of tenure is guaranteed by protecting women and people with disabilities against disposal of their land without consent.
It is to be noted that the Act ensured security of tenure generally as a facet of shelter rights- for the urban poor mainly squatters, recognizing of bona fide occupancy created a statutory, perpetual occupancy, with the squatter protected against arbitrary eviction – for the landowner has to either buy him or her out including compensation for developments or allow the squatter to purchase the “kibanja” at market value and avail him or her a legal title. The down ward side for urban shelter development though cannot be ignored.
In conclusion, Legal security of tenure should be practically implemented to ensure that women are guaranteed legal protection against forced and arbitrary evictions, harassment and other threats. As an obligation, it calls for measures to be taken to confer legal security of tenure upon women, groups and households lacking protection.