03 November 2018

Traditional Barriers Impede Women from Owning Land in Timor-Leste

Secretary of the Women’s Parliamentary Group (GMPTL), 
MP Elvina de Sousa said societies in rural areas continue to adopt customs 
that dictate women have no right to land and property.
From The Dili Weekly  Published: 17 September 2018 Written by Paulina Quintão, TDW Land Law No. 13/2017, on the ownership of land titles, ensures women and men have the same right to be title holders of land in Timor-Leste, however women in rural areas of the country are denied their right to the land because of traditional barriers.

Secretary of the Women’s Parliamentary Group (GMPTL), MP Elvina de Sousa said societies in rural areas continue to adopt customs that dictate women have no right to land and property.

The Secretary of the Women’s Parliamentary Group (GMPTL), MP Elvina de Sousa said societies in rural areas continue to adopt customs that dictate women have no right to land and property because when they get married they will live with their husbands.

She said this traditional mindset represents a challenge for the government in implementing the land law.


However, she said the government and civil society need to consider this an issue that can serve as motivation for them to continue to raise awareness and advocate against this traditional practice because it is discriminatory and unfair.

“I am personally against families who discriminate against women’s access land and who want to be landowners. We all know this is not a good custom, but we still practice it. Everyone needs to work harder to fix this and in particular, change people’s mentality,” she said at the National Parliament.
She said the government has a major responsibility for making the change in people’s attitude in society and to guarantee the adequate implementation of the law to safeguard the rights of Timorese women to land ownership.

She acknowledged that it will not be easy to change the mindset and attitudes of society because this is also part of Timorese traditional life but with everyone’s efforts it will be possible one day.
On the other hand, the Secretary of State for Land and Property, Mario Ximenes said the law is clear and women and men have the same right to land so everyone must comply.

He said traditionally women do not have entitlement to land but this is based on oral tradition established by the ancestors, but now this has changed and everyone needs to adhere to the law.

“We now have a law and we are preparing to award land certificates, but before this happens, we have to raise awareness in the community so they know the context and their right to access land,” he said.

He appealed to women to actively find information and register their land, so they can have rights to the land when the government awards the certificates.
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