Context

Land is of tremendous importance in South Sudan. It represents community, belonging and place as well as provides a source of income, subsistence and survival. Control of land and resources was at the centre of the conflict that lasted five decades, leading to South Sudan’s independence in 2011.

Decades of conflict have led to continued displacement and a lack of secure land to live and farm on. Many men have been killed, leaving women as household heads to support their families by themselves. The upheaval that has occurred due to war and the creation of a new country has also created some opportunities for women.

South Sudan has adopted very progressive legislation protecting women’s HLP rights. The Transitional Constitution, the Land Act and the Local Government Act, all explicitly recognise women’s rights to own and inherit land and property. The Constitution also calls on all levels of government to enact laws to combat harmful customs and traditions, which undermine the dignity and status of women.

Tradition is hard to change, however, and there still remains a significant gap between law and practice. Women’s HLP rights have in the past been linked to a husband or male family member. This can lead to loss of property and land for widows, daughters and divorcees. There is currently a tension between those who want to maintain these customary practices and the new laws and legal structures that offer women better protection. Bribery and corruption can also provide a financial barrier to women getting documentation of land ownership and other rights.

Recommendations

The Government of South Sudan should:

UN Agencies and International NGOs should:

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