Washington International Law Journal


Jennifer Brown


In Java, Indonesia, only about one-third of land title certificates reflect ownership by women. This lack of registered land ownership can potentially harm women by depriving them of influence within the household and leaving them vulnerable in cases of divorce or a spouse's death. This Article argues that effective land registration mechanisms and legal and social recognition of women's property rights all play a critical role in protecting women's ownership interests. Interviews with landowners and government officials in Java reveal that Indonesia's land registration processes do not effectively advance ownership rights granted under the nation's family law. Despite the government's efforts to educate the public about land registration, few women are aware of the registration procedures. Field studies also indicate that confusion regarding co-ownership rights exists even among government officials. Despite the fact that Indonesia's land registration processes do not reinforce the nation's family law, Indonesian women's property interests are not compromised. First, formal procedures for the transfer of land protect women when land is sold or divided. Second, customary Javanese practices recognize and protect the concept of marital community property. This Article concludes, however, that in other developing countries, incongruence between legal property rights and land registration systems may effectively weaken women's land ownership interests.

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