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Women and Land in Sri Lanka: A literature review

Viyanga Gunasekera | Published on January 6, 2021

This literature review was conducted to explore and critically analyse the case of women and land in Sri Lanka. Firstly, this review explores the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial land tenure in Sri Lanka in a bid to understand how history of land tenure has affected land ownership patterns of women. Secondly, it details the general and customary laws, inheritance practices of land, and how colonial influences have changed women’s inheritance patterns of land. Thirdly, changes to land tenure and women’s ownership of land are explored from the post-independence period to the present, with special focus on land settlement schemes, post-tsunami land allocation, post-war changes, and more recent land reform proposals. The review then critically analyses different arguments as to why women should own land, the gaps between law and practice, and between ownership and control, and the consequences of women’s lack of access to land. Finally, the review discusses recent research surveying what land means to women in contemporary Sri Lanka, the knowledge gaps gleaned from the review, and final conclusions.

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