Human Rights Committee Highlights Women’s Land and Property Rights in Reviews on Burundi and Sri Lanka
The United Nations Human Rights Committee recently issued its Concluding Observations on Burundi and Sri Lanka, two countries where the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) and its partners highlighted pressing human rights concerns regarding discrimination against women in the area of land and property rights. Mayra Gomez, the Co-Executive Director of the GI-ESCR said “We are very pleased that the Human Rights Committee has paid serious attention to discrimination against women in the area of land and property rights, as these rights are vital to ensuring women’s equality and livelihoods. While the specific issues highlighted for Burundi and Sri Lanka are unique to each country, at the same time we see widespread discrimination against women in the area of land and property rights, a situation which required increased international attention.”
On Burundi, the GI-ESCR together with its partner ActionAid Burundi presented a joint parallel report to the Committee addressing violations against women’s rights in the area of inheritance. The parallel report highlighted that women in Burundi generally only inherit property of small value, while customary laws provide that women cannot inherit land from their fathers or husbands. It asked the Committee to recommend that the State draft and adopt a national Succession Act which will protect the equal inheritance rights of women.
Relying on the information provided in the parallel report, in its Concluding Observations, the Committee said that Burundi “should adopt the draft law on inheritance, matrimonial regimes and gifts and to ensure full compliance with the provisions of the Covenant,” and added that “The state should also conduct awareness campaigns for the population to change traditional attitudes that impede the exercise by women of their human rights” (translation for the original in French).
On Sri Lanka, the GI-ESCR also support a parallel report presented by its partner FOKUS WOMEN. That report addressed land and livelihood issues faced by women in the post-war context, with a focus on women headed households. In its Concluding Observations the Committee expressed concern about discriminatory provisions against women in domestic legislation, including on rights of succession in respect of land permits and grants and the disposal of immovable property. It asked that the State “Undertake a comprehensive review of its domestic laws, including those governing rights of succession in respect of land permits and grants, the disposal of immovable property,” so as to bring these laws into conformity with the Covenant, and specifically Articles 3, 23 and 26.
“We hope that these successes encourage other organizations to utilize the Committee to advocate around these issues, and that these Concluding Observations serve as a useful tool for continued advocacy and law reform” added Dr Gomez. The GI-ESCR will continue to advocate with its partners so that these rights are increasingly realized for women.