The Link Between Land and Gender-Based Violence

A growing body of evidence shows a correlation between gender-based violence (GBV) and land rights. Awareness of the possible GBV implications of land interventions is critical to understanding impacts on women.

How can land-related development programming better address GBV? As a start, interventions should include the whole community: men, women, and customary and formal governance institutions. To understand and address the challenge of GBV, projects should proactively incorporate GBV monitoring and mitigation strategies that will enable them to adapt and respond. Ultimately, such attention and research will result in better programming and a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between land rights and GBV.

What does the evidence show? Research from USAID shows that secure land rights can increase a woman’s economic independence and her bargaining power, and reduce her vulnerability to GBV – particularly in low-income, agriculture-based economies. However, the correlation between GBV and women’s land and property rights is highly variable and context- and culture-dependent. More research is needed to understand the many dimensions of this relationship, and its implications for social and economic development.

For instance, a 2005 study in Kerala, India found that women who owned their own homes had a lower risk of marital violence than women who did not own a house and land, and a later study in Uttar Pradesh concluded that “women’s ownership of property has a large effect on reducing violence.” Similarly,