Analytical materials / Tajikistan

Alla Kuvatova: Gender aspects of access to land in Tajikistan

23.04.2015

“Despite the predominance of women in agricultural works, the gender inequality in access to land is clearly evident in Tajikistan. Women have relatively broad rights to use land, but their right of control over the land is very limited”, said Alla Kuvatova, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History and Theory of Journalism Department of Russian-Tajik Slavic University (Dushanbe, Tajikistan), in an article written exclusively for cabar.asia.

Access to land in Tajikistan: gender aspects

During the years of independence, the Republic of Tajikistan has developed its own model of state policy to ensure equal rights and opportunities for men and women by adopting appropriate laws, policies and programs. On the whole, the country has created a favorable environment for declarative programs aimed at achieving gender equality in society. However, there is a number of constraints for promoting equality for women and thus for sustainable development. This is due primarily to the lack of public awareness of the need for gender equality and gender policy implementation; the presence of traditional stereotypes about the role and place of women in society; imperfection of the legislative framework; the formal equality of men and women; insufficient linkages between government agencies and non-governmental organizations engaged in protecting the rights and legitimate interests of women.

All of these factors are especially acute in rural areas, where the real obstacles for women to exercise their rights in the political, economic, labor, education, and culture aspects are still strong.

Tajikistan is an agrarian country, and, accordingly, more than half of the employed population find job in the agricultural sector. The development of private farming, Dehkan farms (DF) and the allocation by the government of 75 thousand Ha (presidential) for the development of these farms contribute to the increase in the number of employed people in rural areas. Development of the agricultural sector in the context of human development goals is a key factor in ensuring the economic opportunities of people.

In connection with the fact that the majority of men are engaged in labor migration, women in rural areas play a significant role in the economic survival of their families. Therefore, the priority concerns of women include the issues relating to agricultural development and access to land and loans for business development.

The United Nations Organization, having considered the implementation by the Republic of Tajikistan of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), during the 56th session of the UN Committee on CEDAW, in October 2013, under Article 14 “Rural Women” paragraph 29, noted “the adoption of the reform program for the Agriculture of the Republic of Tajikistan for the period of 2012-2020” as a positive fact. However, it was noted that, despite the fact that the vast majority of women live in rural areas, the government has no measures to combat poverty and discrimination against women in rural areas. There is also no guaranteed access for them to justice, education, health, housing, employment in the formal sector, skills development and training, ownership and use of land, as well as their participation in decision-making processes at the local level”[1].

Land legislation

The right of private ownership of land is absent in Tajikistan. In accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan (1996), “The land, its subsoil, water, air, flora and fauna and other natural resources are the exclusive property of the state, and the state guarantees their effective use for the benefit of the people” (Art. 13). [2 ]

Land relations are regulated by the Land Code adopted In 1996, which aims to create conditions for rational land use and protection, reproduction of soil fertility, conservation and improvement of the environment and equal development of all forms of economic activity [3]. In 2012, it was amended, including with the paragraph ensuring equal access of women and men to land. In connection with the amendment to the Land Code, and in order to give Dehkan farms a status of legal entity and to bring all the land legislation into a single unit, there is now a government working group to finalize the legislation, including to make it more gender-sensitive.

In addition, the country continues to implement land reform. In 2012, there was adopted a program for the reform of Agriculture of the Republic of Tajikistan for the period of 2012-2020. In accordance with Article 3 of the Law “On Land Reform” (1992, 2006), the main directions of land reform are: – Conduct an inventory of all lands by Category, types of land tenure, land use and the type of land; – Detect unused and wasted land to create a special land fund of executive hukumats in cities and districts with a view to its subsequent redistribution in favor of more efficient use of land; – Provide land for life-time inherited use to the citizens of RT to maintain farms and personal farms, traditional crafts, gardening, and in exceptional cases – for construction and use of houses.

One of the priorities of the land reform is the reorganization of agricultural enterprises and the creation of Dehkan Farms (DF). Legal basis for the establishment and activities of DFs in the RT are determined by the RT Law “On Dehkan (farmer) economy” [4], №48 of 10 May 2002, which focuses on the development of farmer facilities in simplified form, without the acquisition of rights of a legal entity. For that time, this rule was quite positive and boosted the creation of DF. So if in 1992, only 31 DFs functioned on the territory, and their acreage was 300 hectares, in 2003, there were registered 16,433 DFs, and the acreage totaled 240.1 thousand Ha [5]. Since 2008, the number of Dehkan farms with 30,800 units increased to 73,800 in the Republic of Tajikistan in 2013. [6]

Problems of Dehkan households headed by women

As for women, compared with men, they have less land, do not have equal access to decision-making processes in the field of agriculture, to the distribution of financial benefits from harvesting, to loans, etc. Among the heads of farms, the proportion of women is 6.5 times lower as compared to men. 87.7% of DFs in Tajikistan are headed by men (2013, see. Figure 1.).

The number of DFs headed by women has increased over the period from 2008 to 2013  from 2,695 to 5,700 [7]. But at the same time, the share of DFs headed by women over the years has decreased from 13.9% to 12.3%. [8] This is due to the fact that in recent years, a considerable number of male shareholders separated from the previously established collective DFs and created new family and individual DFs headed by men.

The main barriers and obstacles to sustainable development of women’s DFs are the lack of financial resources and limited access to loans, lack of necessary equipment, water shortages and other reclamation-irrigation problems, futures farm debts, problem of provision with fertilizers /pesticides, lack of seeds and their poor quality, as well as the lack of knowledge and awareness of managers of DFs.

At the same time, farms headed by women work just as well as those ones headed by men, and in many cases, even better. Official statistics record higher productivity rates of the DFs, in which leaders are women, including in the yield of raw cotton, potatoes, grapes, etc.

Access to loans

However, DFs, headed by women, compared with men, face additional difficulties and problems related to access to loans, agricultural and other equipment, its repair, security specialists, etc.

Women – DF leaders, compared with men, much less likely to use the services of commercial banks. A significant proportion of women’s farms are trying to do without loans, as they face a number of obstacles in the way of their acquisition. According to the women, in order to get a loan, it is necessary to submit a package of documents to the bank, but most importantly – a collateral for a loan. No loan will be issued without collateral. The collateral could be property and valuables. In practice, women have nothing to use as collateral, as often the owner of the property, including the house where she lives with her children, is a man, her father in law, husband or eldest son. Jewelry, even if a woman has it, too, cannot act as a guarantee, because the amount of bail is much higher.

With regard to the rights of women to bank loans, mortgages and other forms of financial credit, the Law (Article 12) provides for a requirement for equal access for men and women to economic resources, and this is a positive attempt to comply with the above obligations under the Convention. However, equal access does not always lead to equal results. Non-discriminatory criteria of lending may have discriminatory impact on women in divorce, in actual relationship or after the divorce. For example, if the property, which was acquired during the marriage, was traditionally delegated to husband’s name, the bank will grant a loan to someone who has a real property as collateral. The woman cannot get a loan, if the land is not in her possession, even though theoretically the land maybe hers.

Gender inequality in access to land

Gender examination showed that the land laws in the Republic of Tajikistan, in general, do not discriminate against women. However, the enforcement of land legislation in Tajikistan is carried out without the regard to gender. The legislation has the principles of non-discrimination and equal rights, but it does not use principles such as the principle of equal opportunities and the principle of temporary special measures to overcome gender inequality. The absence at the legislative level of effective mechanisms to ensure women’s rights to land use in practice leads to discrimination against women.

Land use issues from a gender perspective is addressed in the Rules of the reorganization and reform of agricultural organizations approved by the Presidential Decree of June 30, 2006 № 1775. Paragraph 23 of the act provides that female breadwinners in families and lone mothers have the right for the ownership of the property and receiving a land plot in the reorganization of agricultural organizations. However, the definition of “woman-breadwinner” and “lone mother” does not exist in the legislation of the Republic of Tajikistan, and therefore, the application of this paragraph seems problematic.

With respect to land use rights of Tajik citizens, there are also problems. One of the main problems of gender equality in terms of economic rights is the lack of proper regulation of land use rights, providing its turnover and alienability, which limits the access of both men and women to financial and economic resources.

According to article 304 of the Civil Code, property acquired by spouses during marriage is their joint property, unless the law or the contract between them does not establish a different mode of this property.

However, with respect to land relations, there is not any connection between land use and marriage. Spouse of a formal land user who received the land use right during the marriage has no rights to the land, despite his/her contribution to its improvement. At the disposal of land use rights, in particular upon its pledge, the spouse has no influence on these actions, and at the death of a spouse, he/she is deprived of actual rights. The law is no concept of transfer of land use rights.

Taking into account the specificity of land relations in Tajikistan, namely the absence of private ownership of land, the approach to issues of land use and division of property upon divorce or without it should also be specific to a certain extent. When resolving the disputes related to land use, it is necessary to take into account the interests of the husband / wife who is not a formal land user.

Without an appropriate bylaw, land users will not be able to exercise their rights. In this regard, it is necessary to develop and adopt a new legal act – Rules on the transfer of land use rights, approved by the Government of Tajikistan and defining the concept of this transfer, the actions included in the transfer of land use rights, limits and procedures for such actions.

The main problems related to gender issues in rural areas

The analysis shows that, in general, Tajikistan has unequal access of men and women to resources (property, land, loan, etc.). In particular, the lack of access to land makes rural women much too dependent on the men in their families, reduces the potential for women to contribute to agricultural growth and increases their vulnerability to poverty.

Gender inequality is also reflected in the development of human potential, unequal access for men and women to basic social services, including education, health and others.

The implementation of the planned activities of the state gender policy has not changed and would not be able to change the situation of unequal access of women and men to resources and control over these resources (property, land, etc.). Not having ownership and initial capital, it is virtually impossible for women to start a business, take a loan, etc.

It has been observed that the increase in women’s access to land and the status of women-heads of farms, their contribution to the solution of vital problems of the family have some impact on the change in the position of women in the system of stratification of households and communities. But these changes are not yet sufficiently stable. In the hierarchy of decision-making in households and communities, a woman’s voice still sounds very weak.

The results of the research and the practice of the State Committee for Land Management of the RT [9] for monitoring the implementation of the State Program section “Rural women’s access to land” have shown that gender mainstreaming in the reorganization of agricultural enterprises and intervention on the part of the relevant institutional arrangements can influence the resolution of gender inequalities. A good example of effective assistance to raise awareness of women in land reform, legal literacy, gender mainstreaming in ensuring equal access to land is the activities of UN Women District information and counseling Centers on the basis of the Committees on Women and Family Affairs of the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan. [10]

Recommendations

In our opinion, the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan needs to develop and implement specific measures to combat poverty of women, including the adoption of effective measures to ensure rural women’s access to justice, education, housing, employment in the formal sector, skills development and training, and possession use of land, taking into account their specific needs.

To support the development of women’s entrepreneurship and farming, first and foremost, a number of problems in the field of agriculture must be addressed. These problems are caused by factors such as poor irrigation and drainage condition of the land; low farmer households users’ awareness of cultural matters of land use and agricultural technology; high interest rates on the financial and credit services and the lack of long-term concessional lending. Weak material and technical base – the lack of agricultural machinery and equipment, high cost of fuel and lubricants, fertilizers and pesticides – is also a big problem for the villagers, and especially for women.

Issues of women’s entrepreneurship should be more clearly reflected in the development of policies and government programs at the national level and supported by appropriate resources.

The responsible authorities should ensure the monitoring of the implementation of these policies and programs and make appropriate management decisions. This will greatly enhance and expand opportunities for women and their role in the socio-economic life of the country, as well as increase the level of development of entrepreneurship in rural areas.

Improvement of land law and practice of land legislation and agricultural reform must be based on gender mainstreaming.

A gender perspective, including the process of evaluating any proposed event in terms of its impact on women and men, including the development of the overall concept, the implementation, monitoring and evaluation activities, and others should be introduced in the developed programs and projects in the field of land reform.

Local authorities must ensure equal participation of rural women in decision-making processes at the community level [11], as well as enhance the capacity building and gender awareness among relevant agencies and, primarily, in local khukumats, land committees, etc .

There must be ensured the  involvement of women in decision-making processes on the basis of gender balance and the mandatory inclusion of women in the district commissions on farm restructuring, land distribution, working groups on the development of regional strategies and action plans, etc. [12]

Women’s associations, together with the Committee on Women and Family Affairs under the Government, should continue to lobby for proposals on the basis of public hearings in terms of improving the legislation on land use, to ensure women’s equal access to land, including:

– to include a land use right in the objects to be distributed on dissolution of marriage in the Civil and Family Code;

– to include the norms on inheriting the land use right and its specificities in the civil legislation.this measure will give an opportunity to legatees (spouses, daughters, mothers) of the deceased land user either to receive their share of the land use rights or an adequate compensation;

It is necessary to initiate awareness-raising campaigns on the testamentary rights of land users, both among land users, and among notaries.

It is also necessary to carry out information and training programs on the role of women in land reform for women farmers and women leaders from rural areas.

Alla Kuvatova, Associate Professor of History and Theory of Journalism Department of Russian-Tajik Slavic University

Opinion of the author may not necessarily represent those of CABAR

[1] The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Concluding notes on the comprehensive fourth and fifth periodic report by Tajikistan. October 18, 2013

[2] Constitution of RT. 1996. www.mmk.tj

[3] The Land Code of the Republic of Tajikistan.  1996. www.mmk.tj

[4] The Law of RT “On Dehkan (farmer) households” .2002. www.mmk.tj

[5] Source: Statistical Yearbook of the Republic of Tajikistan. 2001. The State Statistics Committee. P.175. Statistical Yearbook of the Republic of Tajikistan. 2004. The State Statitstics Committee. Dushanbe. P.173

[6] M. Abdulloev. Gender aspects of agriculture.-www.stat.tj

[7] Ibid – www.stat.tj

[8] See: State Statistical Committee. Gender indicators in farmer households. Dushanbe, 2009, s.52-60

[9] Currently: Agency for Land Management, Geodesy and Cartography under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan.

[10] See: PF “Panorama”. Dehkan Farms from a gender perspective. Dushanbe, 2005.

[11] The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Concluding notes on the comprehensive fourth and fifth periodic report of Tajikistan.- October 18, 2013

[12] The second alternative report of public associations of Tajikistan on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. -Dushanbe, 2012. – PP.64-65.

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