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Empowering Women

Empowering Women: Land And Property Rights In Latin America

Carmen Diana Deere
Magdalena León
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  • Book Info
    Empowering Women
    Book Description:

    The expansion of married women's property rights was a main achievement of the first wave of feminism in Latin America. As Carmen Diana Deeere and Magdalena Leon reveal, however, the disjuncture between rights and actual ownership remains vast. This is particularly true in rural areas, where the distribution of land between men and women is highly unequal. In their pioneering, twelve-country comparative study, the authors argue that property ownership is directly related to women's bargaining power within the household and community, point out changes resulting from recent gender-progressive legislation, and identify additional areas for future reform, including inheritance rights of wives.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7232-7
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. List of Abbreviations and Acronyms
    (pp. ix-xx)
  2. one The Importance of Gender and Property
    (pp. 1-31)

    This book is about the disjuncture in Latin America between men’s and women’s formal equality before the law and the achievement of real equality between them, an issue particularly well illuminated by the gap between women’s property rights and their actual ownership of property. Until the early twentieth century, a major factor limiting women’s ownership of property was the restricted nature of married women’s property rights. The struggle to expand these was one of the main achievements of the first wave of feminism in Latin America, and it was intimately linked with the struggle to secure other civil and political...

  3. two Gender, Property Rights, and Citizenship
    (pp. 32-61)

    Notwithstanding different legal traditions, in the early nineteenth century married women in Latin America shared a similar status to their counterparts in the United States, England, and most of continental Europe: they were subject to the authority of their husbands in almost all of their affairs. Nonetheless, married women in colonial Latin America had greater bargaining power within marriage than did their counterparts in the United States and England. Under the Iberian codified tradition, in contrast to British common law, married women could own, inherit, and will property; moreover, inheritance norms favored gender-equitable distribution of property. A married woman’s fall-back...

  4. three Gender Exclusionary Agrarian Reform
    (pp. 62-106)

    In 1961 President John F. Kennedy announced a new partnership between the United States and Latin America, the Alliance for Progress, to be based on increased U.S. financial and technical assistance to the region and the commitment by Latin American states to fundamental socioeconomic reforms. In the Declaration to the Peoples of America of the Charter of Punta del Este, the signatory countries agreed

    To encourage, in accordance with the characteristics of each country, programs of comprehensive agrarian reform, leading to the effective transformation, where required, of unjust structures and systems of land tenure and use; with a view to...

  5. four Building Blocks toward Gender-Progressive Change
    (pp. 107-136)

    The building blocks that prepared the way for gender and land rights to be considered an important issue have been set in place at the international, national, and local levels. Our entry point is the genesis and evolution of the field of women in development (or wid), for this field provided the framework that has oriented the priorities of international agencies and the actions of governments in addressing gender concerns over the past several decades. The influence of the wid field grew in tandem with the consolidation and expansion of the international women’s movement, the latter facilitated by the United...

  6. five Engendering the Neo-Liberal Counter-Reforms
    (pp. 137-183)

    During the 1980s an extraordinary consensus was reached among the international financial institutions as well as Latin American governments concerning the virtues of neo-liberalism.² Import-substitution industrialization (isi) and the state-driven policies of previous decades were largely discredited in favor of free markets and open economies. Facing daunting debt-service payments and large current-account deficits, Latin American countries adopted stabilization programs in order to bring about macroeconomic balance. These programs aimed to reduce the domestic fiscal deficit, establish equilibrium in the balance of payments, and reduce inflation while allowing for debt repayment. Structural adjustment was to establish the conditions for long-run growth...

  7. six The Struggle for Women’s Land Rights and Increased Ownership of Land
    (pp. 184-227)

    The neo-liberal agrarian codes that provide for formal equality in men’s and women’s land rights have come about through the combined actions of three groups of social agents, what feminist scholars Virginia Vargas, Saskia Wieringa, and Geertje Lyclama (1996) have called “the triangle of empowerment”: women active in social movements (urban and rural), women in the state, and women in formal politics. We would add a fourth actor, the international agencies. It is the interaction of these four groups, facilitated since the mid-1970s by myriad international and regional conferences and networks, that has generated consensus on the content of gender-progressive...

  8. seven In Defense of Community: Struggles over Individual and Collective Land Rights
    (pp. 228-263)

    The rise to dominance of neo-liberal governments in Latin America coincided with the growth and consolidation not only of the women’s movement but also of the indigenous movement. Besides their timing, they share a number of other factors in common. Both social movements challenged the traditional conception of universal human rights, drawing attention to its exclusionary biases. Both movements grew simultaneously at the international, national, and local levels, with the growth in the latter contexts supported by international conventions to end discrimination based on sex and ethnicity. And both movements, although in diverse ways, challenged neo-liberal legislation that sought to...

  9. eight Inheritance of Land in Practice
    (pp. 264-291)

    One of the distinctive aspects of Latin American society, compared to many other regions of the world, is the legal tradition inherited from colonial rule whereby all legitimate children, irrespective of sex, inherit equally from both of their parents.² Another is that the foundational myths of a number of the major pre-Columbian civilizations were based on the notion of the complementarity of men and women. This belief system is associated by some with traditions and customs that are relatively gender egalitarian, such as bilateral or parallel inheritance systems.³ Given such a favorable heritage, one might expect the actual distribution of...

  10. nine Women Property Owners: Land Titling, Inheritance, and the Market
    (pp. 292-329)

    One of the pillars of neo-liberal thinking about the future of the agricultural sector is the necessity of providing security of tenure to producers. This has been addressed in two ways: through the formal end to agrarian reform efforts involving the expropriation of land; and by land titling projects and efforts to modernize cadastral systems and land registries. In the 1990s almost every single Latin American country was undertaking land titling programs of some sort, with most of these projects partly financed by the World Bank or the Inter-American Development Bank (idb) (Echeverría 1998: 5–8). The focus on land...

  11. ten Land and Property in a Feminist Agenda
    (pp. 330-350)

    A central theme of this book has been the continuing disjuncture between men’s and women’s formal equality before the law and the achievement of gender equality in actual practice, a theme that is well illustrated by the gap between women’s property rights and their ownership of land. The struggle for formal equality before the law and for women’s property and land rights has been a contentious process over the course of the twentieth century, and these goals still have not been attained in all Latin American countries. While much has been accomplished in the legal realm, women in Latin America...