The Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT) has called for speedy passage of a Land bill that adequately addresses gender equality and social inclusion (GESI).
The bill was laid in Parliament last year for consideration and passage, and referred to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands and Forestry. The Committee has reviewed the bill with key stakeholders, but after the Committee’s work the Land bill was withdrawn in March, 2019 to be re-laid before Parliament.
The bill is intended to consolidate and harmonise all existing laws on land, regulate land use, and enhance effective land management in the country.
To protect women and other vulnerable people’s interest in land, the bill has provisions on gender equality and social inclusion which will ensure the integration of national and international best practices on gender and land rights, land administration and management.
These are premised on prevailing laws and court decisions affecting distribution of land; current rules and procedures on land acquisition; and international concepts and best practices of land management and land administration.
The Land bill is the outcome of reforms which were introduced in the land sector as a result of implementing the 1999 National Land Policy (NLP). The NLP identified about 166 pieces of legislation, including subsidiary legislation, that formed the legal framework for land administration in Ghana.
The Group, at a press conference in Kumasi, appealed for President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to ensure that the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, the Committee on Lands and Forestry, and Parliament expedite action on passage of the Land bill – with its GESI provisions intact to protect women and the vulnerable in society.
While urging the media to raise the public’s political consciousness to support the passage of a GESI-responsive Land bill, it also advised the public to hold their parliamentarians accountable and demand passage of the bill with the current GESI provisions intact.
Even though the GESI provisions in the Land bill are intact after the Committee’s work, NETRIGHT maintains there is a need to mobilise support to ensure that the GESI provisions are not watered-down or removed when it is re-laid for consideration by the full House.
“Women and men are equal development partners of the country, thus any legislation that seeks to address inequalities and promote gender justice is in the right direction and must be supported by all.”
Land administration and management in the country is embedded with conflicts, and a GESI-responsive Land bill will contribute greatly to addressing some of these conflicts, according to the Group.
Land plays a central role in the livelihoods of many Ghanaians. Nearly two-thirds of the population make their living off the land as smallholder farmers, with the majority being women. However, access to land is a key challenge for women farmers, although it is a basic requirement for farming.
The land tenure system in Ghana has deep-rooted structural and systemic challenges which have created gender and class inequalities. There are several socio-cultural issues relating to land and land governance in Ghana, and women play a limited role within that context.
The Programme Officer of NETRIGHT, Cynthia Sunu, noted that in some communities, women have limited access to land as compared to men. “Women’s access, control and ownership of land are critical factors in addressing gender inequalities in the land sector,” she noted.
In the area of spousal property rights, the female spouse tends to be denied her right to jointly acquire landed property, in spite of Article 22 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana that requires equity in the sharing of such properties.
The Programme Manager of NETRIGHT, Patricia Blankson Akakpo, explained that a complex mix of customary and statutory laws governs land tenure in Ghana.
According to the Lands Commission, 80% of the land in Ghana is communally owned; about 18% is vested land, while the remaining 2% is state-owned. There are over 100 laws governing land in Ghana, in addition to unwritten customary laws regulating stool, skin and family land.