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Carmen Diana Deere University of Florida 2011 Robert G. Mead, Jr. Endowed Lecture Center for Latin American Studies, University of Connecticut, Storrs.

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Presentation on theme: "Carmen Diana Deere University of Florida 2011 Robert G. Mead, Jr. Endowed Lecture Center for Latin American Studies, University of Connecticut, Storrs."— Presentation transcript:

1 Carmen Diana Deere University of Florida 2011 Robert G. Mead, Jr. Endowed Lecture Center for Latin American Studies, University of Connecticut, Storrs November 9, 2011

2  Physical  Sexual  Verbal and/or psychological  Economic ◦ Acts that restrict women’s ability to generate or control their own income and the income necessary to support their own families  Patrimonial ◦ Violations of women’s property rights

3 ◦ Denial of women’s rights to individual or community property ◦ Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Venezuela:  Husband steals, damages or destroys his wife’s property  When he prohibits her from using, managing or disposing of her own property  If he commits any kind of fraud regarding the couple’s community property  If he appropriates for himself the profits from a family business

4  Women’s well being and that of her family related to women’s ownership of property  Ownership of assets an important determinant of a woman’s fall back position should the household dissolve  The stronger a woman’s fall back position, the greater her bargaining power in the household ◦ Greater role in household decision-making ◦ Inversely related to domestic violence ◦ More likely to receive better attention from children in widowhood

5 1. Are women aware of their property rights and are these honored in practice? 2. In what kinds of situations is patrimonial violence most likely to occur? 3. Are women’s property rights sufficiently strong so that they are able to accumulate assets on par with men?

6  Part of an international, comparative study on women’s accumulation of assets in Ecuador, Ghana and India  Funded by Dutch Foreign Ministry’s MDG3 Fund for Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment  Ecuador study carried out through a collaborative research agreement between University of Florida and FLACSO-Ecuador

7 Qualitative field work 3 provinces: Azuay, Pichincha & Manabí 40 focus groups with 23 organizations 58 interviews with key informants (lawyers, judges, real estate agents, etc.)


9 2,892 Households, nationally representative stratified sample Included Coast & Sierra, rural & urban areas

10  Marital Regime: partial community property Assets acquired prior to marriage Assets acquired during the marriage Inheritances Individual property Joint property of the couple Individual property If marriage dissolves, split 50-50

11  Consensual unions have the same rights as formal marriages if meet certain conditions  Monogamous, 2 years duration, can’t be married to someone else  Inheritance Regime: all children, irrespective of sex, inherit equally from parents

12 1. In FGs, most women aware that assets accumulated during marriage constitute community property 2. Less certain about what happens in consensual unions ◦ Tendency to identify the owner of an asset as the person with whose income it was purchased  Patrimonial violence: “Everything is in his name, since he’s the one who works”


14 The “double signature”: to sell a major asset, both husband and wife must sign Means that even if husband put house in his own name, if he wants to sell, needs signature of wife  Patrimonial violence: Husband falsifies signature Women signs without understanding what it is about (faith that he will protect her interests) Husband purchases an asset and puts it in the name of a third party (usually in anticipation of divorce)

15 In FG we found confusion about status of assets women had brought to marriage ◦ Tendency for them to consider their own assets as “family assets” ◦ At the same time, to recognize husband’s prior assets as his



18  Respondents answer to all three ‘legal literacy’ questions similar: the couple  Could reflect various factors: ◦ People unsure, but felt “the couple” was the socially appropriate answer ◦ Notion of community property well entrenched  Even if disregards rights over individual property  Nonetheless, found important differences according to marital status among those whose responses conformed to Civil Code


20  Perhaps it is the experience of divorce/separation that makes people aware of their property rights ◦ That is, it is a rupture in the marriage/union that makes property rights relevant for most people  Also related to social conventions ◦ Inappropriate to discuss ‘material things’ when in love ◦ Fear of breaking harmony of the union

21 1. The right to the family home (the major asset of most households = 62% gross wealth) CC: linked to who has custody of the children Women assume this is their right (based on social custom); don’t realize only a usufruct right (until children reach 18)  Patrimonial violence: If husband insists, house is sold to divide up gains Women do anything to get out of a bad relationship, particularly in situations of domestic violence Don’t demand property rights

22 2. Loss of inheritance CC: part of individual patrimony  Patrimonial violence:  Women inherited land where couple built house; in divorce, land & house treated as community property without recognizing her inheritance  Related to:  Lack of property titles  Failure to make a “capitulation”, a legal declaration that the land constitutes individual property

23 Capitulations, separation of property marital regime rarely utilized In survey, used by less than 2% of the sample Principally used by people marrying for second time o Not considered socially appropriate o Thus only used when one has already had experience with patrimonial violence (in previous relationship) or to protect the patrimony of one’s children

24 Survey: 27.9% of sample in consensual union  Most common on the Coast  Not generally understood that these convey same property rights as marriages Problem of enforcing property rights of Consensual Unions:  Legal status is that of “Single” ◦ If show ID to purchase a major asset, no one is going to ask “are you in a consensual union?”  Result: asset is registered in the name of the person who purchased it

25 Difficult to prove that one was in a consensual union since these are rarely registered ◦ Survey data: less than 10% of consensual unions are registered  Patrimonial violence:  Partner only has to demonstrate that he had other relationships at the same time so that union doesn’t meet the legal requirements for her to claim property rights Result: Few women in unions claim property rights More likely to fight for child support

26 Most women understand that if widowed, they should receive half of the community property, with the other half going to the children ◦ Considerable confusion over what this half represents: an inheritance from their husband vs. their property right in the marriage/union Few aware that they have no inheritance rights at all to the individual patrimony of their husband ◦ CC: Spouse is in the second order of inheritance

27 Usually the main asset is the family home, and this becomes the joint property of the widow and her children ◦ If there are minor children, the widow has the right to remain in the home in usufruct ◦ Confusion over whether widow has the right to remain in the home until her death  Patrimonial Violence:  The children pressure the widow to sell the family home and divide the proceeds

28 Increased when the home is already in the name of the children  Children can mortgage or sell and leave the widow homeless Common practice to divide up the inheritance among the children when parents are still alive (donations, fictitious sales) Upon death of spouse, few assets left to support widow Widow must depend on good will of children

29 Wills rarely used Practice of ‘advance inheritance’ quite common among all social classes ◦ Rural areas: when you marry, parents will “show you your inheritance” Generally both sons and daughters inherit from their parents


31  For many, the main way that they accumulate individually-owned property  Inheritances often constitute their “fall back” position – what they can count on in the case of separation, divorce & widowhood



34  Our estimate: Women own 52.2 % of gross household wealth ◦ Represent 53.5% of adult population ◦ Suggests gender equality  The problem: wealth distributed very unequally ◦ Gini wealth coefficient of 0.68 (perfect inequality = 1.0)


36 1. Smaller household size (3.95) 2. Highly feminized (1.32 adult women per 1 adult man) 3. Men & women in consensual unions over- represented 4. Separated women over-represented 5. Female household heads concentrated among asset poor


38  Patrimonial violence affects all social classes, but likely, most severe consequences for poor women  Separation, divorce, widowhood can be devastating, particularly if accompanied by patrimonial violence

39  Savings  Consumer durables  Business  Livestock  Other real estate  Agricultural land  Housing

40 1. Overall, women in Ecuador have fairly strong property rights and these generally are respected Comparative context: IMPLICATIONS: Marital & inheritance regimes make a difference! CountryFemale Share of Physical Wealth (%) Ecuador52.5 Ghana30.2 India19.0

41 2. Gender equality in overall distribution of wealth in Ecuador largely explained by joint property rights in marriage and equal inheritance among all children  Evidence suggests that these legal norms are largely respected

42 3. Class differences outweigh gender differences in the distribution of wealth ◦ Bottom 40% the asset poor  Little security to meet emergencies  Few assets to climb out of poverty ◦ Worrisome that female household heads overrepresented among poorest 20% 4. Marital Status and Class ◦ Consensual unions concentrated in Bottom 40% ◦ Where property rights most difficult to enforce and patrimonial violence seems most common

43 5. Legal Literacy needs to be promoted so that both men and women are aware of their property rights Most confusion is over individual property  To reduce conflict at moment of separation, divorce & widowhood, promote: registration of consensual unions use of capitulations titling of real estate

44 6. Patrimonial Violence should be recognized as a form of violence against women and their human rights  Closely related to physical, psychological and sexual violence ◦ Only these forms recognized in Ecuador’s 1995 Law Against Family Violence  Crucial for women’s empowerment and well- being

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