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Women and Land in Sri Lanka: A Literature Review

This literature review is a comprehensive exploration of the history of land tenure in Sri Lanka, recent changes to land tenure, and the significance of land ownership through a gender perspective. For Sri Lanka, being an agrarian country, land has always been a source of sustenance, socio-economic and political leverage, and is closely tied to ones identity and belongingness to home. With the colonial influences, the legal ownership of land became more important for both the State and its people, and the more recent land settlements, land reforms, and conflicts over land are significant milestones in the history of land in Sri Lanka. Laws and customs related to inheritance and ownership of land in Sri Lanka are mainly governed by three forms of customary laws, namely Kandyan law of the Kandyan Sinhalese, Tesavalamai of the Jaffna Tamils, and Muslim law of all the Muslims, and the general law of the country. The historical patterns of land tenure, colonial influences, customary laws, and more recent land reforms are important in understanding the current contexts and patterns of inheritance, ownership, and control of land by women in Sri Lanka. This literature review takes a critical look at how womens access to land has both deteriorated and improved over time, and provides insights into the case of women and land in contemporary Sri Lanka.

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