Buffalo Human Rights Law Review

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This article explores the contours of development policies as they have been applied to pluralistic legal systems, with a specific focus on their effects on women in post-conflict African countries. Drawing on research that firmly establishes the importance of women's social, economic and political participation in post-conflict development, it identifies the flaws in gender-neutral land titling initiatives introduced and encouraged by development institutions. It then describes the gender-sensitive laws enacted as a response to continuing gender discriminatory practices in Rwanda, Mozambique and Uganda. While taking into account the existence of customary law, these laws explicitly affirm women's rights with respect to land, property and inheritance.

However, the central government's reliance on local informal governance structures to apply and enforce these laws creates a "Catch-22" situation, whereby the local elites with the power to enforce the law are precisely the people who continue to apply gender-discriminatory customary norms, particularly with respect to land rights. The experiences of the three progressive societies mentioned above are analyzed to provide insight into how statutory and customary systems can develop from divergent conflicting legal orders into a more synthesized union of laws which protects women's land rights and is universally enforced.