MUMBAI, May 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Inadequate
rights for indigenous and rural women are jeopardising forests
and common lands across the globe as demand for land and
resources grows, underlining the urgent need for legal reforms,
researchers said on Thursday.
Indigenous peoples' and local communities' lands cover more
than half the global land mass, and women make up more than half
the 2.5 billion people who customarily own and use these lands.
Yet, governments are not ensuring equal rights and
protections to these women, and are failing to meet their
international commitments to do so, according to Washington
D.C.-based advocacy group Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).
Legal protections for indigenous and rural women to own and
manage property are missing in 30 low- and middle-income
countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the report said.
"Without legal protections for women, community lands are
vulnerable to theft and exploitation, which threatens the
world's tropical forests — a critical bulwark against climate
change — as well as efforts to improve life in impoverished
rural communities," RRI said in a report.
Of the countries analysed - whose territories include 78
percent of the developing world's forests - less than a third
legally mandate that women have equal inheritance rights with
men, the report showed.
Community practices often relegate women's tenure rights
solely to land access and use rather than full control over
customarily governed land and natural resources, which are
increasingly threatened by state and corporate actions, it said.
"Unless women have equal standing in all laws governing
indigenous lands, their communities stand on fragile ground,"
said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
"Safeguarding their rights will cement the rights of their
communities to collectively own the lands and forests they have
protected and depended on for generations," she said.
Secure tenure rights for women are especially necessary as
the number of women-led households in rural areas around the
world is rising.
Legal reforms are urgently needed to address the gap between
the rights of indigenous and rural women under international law
and rights recognised by governments, Tauli-Corpuz said.
"Governments have generally hesitated to give rights to
indigenous people. It's even harder to demand rights for
indigenous and rural women, but there must be pressure for these
rights and their implementation," Tauli-Corpuz told the Thomson
(Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Astrid
Zweynert @azweynert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters
Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers
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