The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights welcomes the strong Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights addressing land rights, and in particular women’s land rights, in Uganda. The Concluding Observations were informed by a Parallel Report submitted by the Global Initiative and its local partners the Center for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Africa (CESCRA) and Uganda Land Alliance (ULA) as well as the International Human Rights Clinic at Western New England University School of Law.
Mayra Gomez, Co-Executive Director of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said that “The Committee’s Concluding Observation related to land grabbing, in which it called on Uganda to “fulfil the obligation to obtain their free, prior and informed consent, including and in particular of women and customary land owners” before any land acquisition, is truly groundbreaking as it clearly affirms this important obligation exists under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The Concluding Observations addressed women’s access to, control over and use of land under several issues, including land rights, extractive industries, and equality between men and women.
Following are excerpts of the relevant Concluding Observations:
12. The Committee is concerned that many persons remain without a formal ownership title over their house and land, and about the persistence of land disputes exacerbated by overlapping claims and rights over land. The Committee is also concerned at the delays in amending the 1998 Land Act, with a view to protecting in particular the rights to access to, and own, land by women, pastoralists and customary land owners, including communities. The Committee is further concerned about the inadequate implementation of the Land Policy (art. 1).
The Committee recommends that the State party harmonize its legal framework governing land rights and that all land related laws, notably the Land Act and the Forest Act, are amended also in light of the 2013 Land Policy which provides additional protection to customary land owners and to indigenous peoples’ right to land. The State party should also take measures to effectively implement this Policy, including through allocation of the necessary resources. The Committee refers in this regard to the Voluntary Guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security, adopted in 2012 by the Committee on World Food Security of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
14. The Committee is concerned about increasing incidents of land grabbing in the State party due to extraction activities. The Committee is concerned that oil and gas extraction as well as mining activities are carried out without prior and meaningful consultation with communities whose lands lay beneath these projects. It is also concerned about the disproportionate effect land grabbing has on women and customary land owners (art. 1).
The Committee recommends that the State party strengthen the legal framework governing extraction and mining activities. It urges the State party to always enter into prior and meaningful consultations with the concerned communities before granting concessions for the economic exploitation of the lands, and fulfil the obligation to obtain their free, prior and informed consent, including and in particular of women and customary land owners. The Committee also recommends that the State party guarantee that in no case will such exploitation violate the rights recognized in the Covenant and that just and fair compensation is granted to concerned communities. It should also ensure that these activities as well as the resources generated bring about tangible benefits to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by the population.
Equality between men and women
18. The Committee is concerned about the existence of sex-based discriminatory provisions in the State party’s legislation, including the Succession Act, the Divorce Act and the Marriage Code. It is also concerned about the long delay in the adoption of the Marriage and Divorce Bill. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned about the persistence of patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in all spheres of life, which prevents women from owning lands, contributes to the limited political participation of women, and deepens the occupational sex segregation and the concentration of women in low-paid sectors (art. 3).
Recalling its general comment No. 16 (2005) on the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Step up its efforts to achieve legislative reform, and to this end abolish, as a matter of priority, all the remaining discriminatory provisions against women in its national laws;
(b) Intensify its efforts to adopt the Marriage and Divorce Bill without further delay, and raise awareness among the judiciary, prosecutors, the police and the general public about the provisions of these laws once adopted to ensure their full implementation; and
(c) Take effective measures, including through implementation of the National Gender Policy, to eliminate traditional practices and stereotypes that discriminate against women and raise awareness of this subject, targeting women and men at all levels of society, including traditional and religious leaders, in collaboration with civil society.
The Committee’s full Concluding Observations can be found HERE.
The GI-ESCR and partners Parallel Report can be found HERE.