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Section :      Property Issues

Sub-section :   Law and policy


Difficult access to credit and land for uprooted women despite new law (2003)



  • Despite the provisions of the Peace Agreements, widowed or separated women or those who married for a second time do not succeed in gaining title to their property
  • Land disputes are heard in criminal courts which often conflicts with indigenous leaders who have traditionally regulated access to land and settled land disputes
  • Land has traditionally been registered only in the husband's name

The Law of the Land Fund recognized in 2001 the right of uprooted women to own land or to be co-owners with their husbands       


"Access to land for indigenous women is problematic. Despite the provisions of the Peace Agreements, widowed or separated women or those who have married for a second time do not succeed in gaining title to their property (communal or personal), recovering family property or acquiring new land under cooperative or other programmes. Such problems are growing in complexity, but there is no land court or other formal machinery for settling land disputes, which are increasingly heard in the criminal courts in the form of proceedings for dispossession or illegal seizure. This also leads to serious tension and conflicts between those responsible for law enforcement (the courts, the public prosecutors and the police) and the leaders of the indigenous peoples, who have traditionally played a role in regulating access to land and settling land disputes." (UN CHR, 24 February 2003, paras.28)

"The process of reintegrating both population groups has not received the support of the Productive Projects Trust. Even though the Trust was set up in October 2001, the Government has still not allocated the necessary financial resources. The situation of the displaced, especially women, is all the more serious because the process of providing access to land is proceeding slowly, despite the priority accorded to this population group in the Agreements." (UN GA, 10 July 2002, para.23)

"A further advance is the juridical recognition of the right of uprooted women to own land, or to be co-owners with their husbands, reflected in the Law of the Land Fund. […]

[But] women […] remain hindered in their ability to own and administer land by de facto barriers within their communities, particularly with respect to access to credit." (IACHR 6 April 2001, Chapt.XIV, para.23-26)

"The issue of land ownership, one of the root causes of conflict, can particularly be a problem for women. In practice, they have access to credit and land only as members of a family group, which essentially makes women invisible since land is registered only in the husband's name. Since these practices are culturally rooted and appear to be "normal", women tend not to claim ownership rights. When they do, there are no administrative mechanisms to enforce them.[…]

Although a man's wife generally takes over his land when he dies, her in-laws may try to deprive her of her full inheritance rights." (ILO May 2000, Chapter 13)                                                                          



Inter-American Commission On Human Rights (IACHR), 6 April 2001, Fifth Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala, Chapter XIV, The Human Rights of those Uprooted by the Armed Conflict [Internet]

International Labour Organisation (ILO), May 2000, Population issues and the situation of women in post-conflict Guatemala [Internet]

United Nations Commission on Human Rights (CHR), 24 February 2003, Indigenous Issues - Human rights and indigenous issues - Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, submitted in accordance with Commission resolution 2001/57, Addendum, Mission to Guatemala, E/CN.4/2003/90/Add.2 [Internet]

United Nations General Assembly (UN GA), 10 July 2002, United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala, Report of the Secretary-General, Seventh report (April 01/2001 - April 30/2002), A/56/1003 [Internet]



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