R22 The right to property

Each person has the right to have belongings and property and to live somewhere where they can take care of themselves.

People moving into a new area often find homes on the edges of cities where they may be at risk of forced removal by outsiders who want to develop or exploit the area. This means they are unlikely to want to invest in improving their homes. This lack of security makes it harder for people to find work and find ways of generating income.

Poor people often have no legal proof or recognition of their ownership of land and property, even if it has belonged to their family for generations. In rural areas, people may lose their land or property as a result of debt or through not realising the importance of legal documents. This means they have no rights to make decisions over land use and to practise good stewardship. High rents (often a percentage of crops grown) mean they are unable to break out of a cycle of poverty.

Widows and their children may be left with nothing if their husbands die. They can lose their home, their land and their possessions to relatives of their dead husband. This often reduces them to a life of poverty.

Discussion 
  • Read James 1:27. What does James say about those who care for widows and children? How could we respond more?
  • Why is it so important to ensure that widows are able to remain in possession of their husband’s land and homes?
  • What kind of protection is available to widows who are vulnerable from within the family, from the community and from the state?
  • What are the social customs in our community regarding land rights?
  • How do our national laws support these customs?
  • Can women own land and property? How can we support women in gaining their own land and property? What difference would this make to women?
  • How can people take steps to register their rights to property or land? Are there organisations that can help with this?
  • How often in our society do people lose their rights to land or property through ignorance, debt or corruption? What can be done to help challenge this?

Articles 6, 17, 28 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights