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Illegally Married Women Could Be Granted Right to Land

by Oswald Niyonzima
2:20 pm

A Team of Land Surveyers and residents during the Land registration Excercise. Illegally married women could have rights to land ownership. (File photo)

With the new land policy under elaboration, illegally married women could get rights to land.

The Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority (RLMUA) and the Ministry of Land and Forestry early this week presented the draft policy to land stakeholders for discussion on relevancy and gaps that needs to be addressed.

“There is an increasing trend of polygamy and other types of informal marriages such as cohabitation, jeopardizing land rights for women and leading to land related disputes,” says Florien Nteziryayo, Land Use Planning and Monitoring Specialist for Rwanda Land and Forestry Ministry.

Ntiziryayo says that the policy under review which is set to replace the land policy under use since 2004 will look at “the clarity of land rights for illegally married women.”

During consultations that were done in two districts in each Province and in the City of Kigali, the team drafting the new land policy observed “an increasing number of polygamous marriages, and we want to give clarity on how these issues of land rights can be managed vis-a-vis this emerging issue,” he reiterated.

“The government encourages couples who are illegally married to legalise their marriages to get rights to property, but for those who resisted against the policy their wives told us they still lack rights to land,” Nteziryayo said adding that “we want to reinforce that every one among couples living in cohabitation gets rights to land they share so that we reduce land disputes.”

While Rwanda constitution reserves property rights to only legally married couples since the only legally recognized type of marriage is civil monogamous marriage, the new land policy may push to an amendment of the land law to curb land disputes, especially among illegally married couples.

“A bad policy could result into a bad legislation,” Evode Uwizeyimana, State Minister in the Ministry of Justice, told KT Press arguing however that “it is more of an issue of policy than law.”

“When there is an issue in a policy you deal with it within the framework of the policy because a law is informed by the policy,” he said.

Meanwhile, Anne Kayiraba, Country Director of Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development Initiative (RISD), an organization that advocates for women land rights, is happy about the progress.

“Iam glad it’s coming out but I am not sure if it should be addressed through the land policy,” she told KT Press.

Through the 2004 land policy, 10.4 million parcels were demarcated, and according to figures from the Ministry of Land and Forestry, the policy improved women’s access to land and land rights.

According to available figures on land ownership in Rwanda 25% of the land is owned by women compared to 14% owned by men. Co-owner land represents 61%.

The new land policy builds from the achievements of the 2004 land policy and prioritizes the unfinished agenda in different thematic areas, aligning with the new national development agenda (NST1 and Vision 2050), domesticates the SDGs (2030), the African Union Agenda 2063, and the EAC vision 2050.

“The previous policy focused mainly on land administration including establishing land laws, land rights, land fees and taxes, land registration and new land tenure system, but this new land policy puts much emphasis on efficient land use management,” Nteziryayo said.

The new policy also suggests a number of changes including the hierarchy of land use planning to include Sector Land use Master Plan, conducting land suitability mapping, and elaboration of District Land Use Plan.