V. Glossary

Page Contents

This page will highlight a few areas for analysis.

To jump to one of the sections on this page use the below links:


BRIDEPRICE: Money, property, or services paid by a groom or his family to the family of the bride.

CO- or COMMON OWNERSHIP: A form of shared tenure (defined below) where more than one person or organization owns land or other property—each person owns a portion of the whole, divided equally unless otherwise stated.  Typically, with co-ownership if one owner dies, his heirs inherit his property but only up to his portion.

COLLECTIVE TENURE:  A form of shared tenure (defined below) where a group holds rights on land, and decision-makers of that group have the power to allocate, manage, and govern land of the collective group.

COMPULSORY ACQUISITION: The formal power of the state to acquire land that is owned by either individuals or communities through legal action, usually in return for some kind of compensation, and often based on statutorily defined "public purpose".

CONSENSUAL UNION:  Two people who choose to live together as if they were married, without either the civil or customary marriage ceremony.  This is also known as an informal marriage, de facto union, or common law marriage.

CUSTOMARY RIGHTS: Rights acquired by custom - rather than by statutory law -  and recognized by all inhabitants of a particular place, and available to those who are part of covered by the customary rules.

DOWRY: Money, goods, land or other possessions that a woman brings into a marriage with her; very often paid by her family and sometimes paid to the groom’s family.

JOINT OWNERSHIP: A form of shared tenure (defined below). More than one person or legal entity owns land or other property together – each person owns the whole of the property, jointly.  If one owner dies, the surviving owners retain ownership of the whole property.

LAND TENURE SECURITY: Land tenure is defined as the legal or customary institutional relationships among people with respect to land. These relationships define how rights to land are governed.  Land tenure refers to a bundle of different property rights in land which can include the right to own, use, sell, gift, bequeath, mortgage, and transfer land.  Land tenure security exists along a continuum, where factors influencing security include the breadth, scope, and duration of rights; the social, legal and cultural legitimacy of rights; and the adequacy and enforceability of rights.  Understanding land tenure security in this more robust way is important because it creates conceptual space for the complexity of land tenure systems that exist around the world, especially in places where individual private ownership is neither the norm, nor the preference.  Relationships that underlie land governance are tethered to social relationships and reflect power structures, economics, social norms, symbolic or cultural meaning, and sometimes systemic inequities.  This means that, within the same society, the factors making land tenure insecure for some groups may not be the same for others and the factors that make land tenure insecure for men may be different for women. 

MARITAL PROPERTY: Moveable or unmoveable property considered to be part of the marital community, owned by both husband and wife.

MARITAL PROPERTY REGIMES: Legal regimes that define legal rights to property acquired in marriage.  Types of marital property regimes include: community of property, limited community of property, and separate property.

MATRILINEAL: Tracing descent and family relationships through the maternal line.

MATRILOCAL: The married couple resides with or near the wife's parents or people.

PATRILINEAL:  Tracing descent and family relationships through the paternal line.

PATRILOCAL: The married couple resides with or near the husband's parents or people.

PERSONAL LAW:  A body or collection of laws dealing with an individual and his or her family.

PRESUMED COMMON OR JOINT OWNERSHIP: Common or joint ownership (defined above) is, by law, the default property regime for marital couples unless otherwise stated in law. That is, all property acquired after marriage is presumed to be the common or joint ownership of the married couple unless it fits into a legal exception.

SHARED TENURE: The broad category of rights to land and housing shared by two or more people. Shared tenure can be formal or informal. Formal shared tenure conventionally refers to co-ownership or co-lease rights; shared tenure also refers to the joint ownership of marital property between spouses.  Those holding shared rights may be related to each other, such as where heirs co-own property of their parents, or where a community share rights to collectively held forestland, or where a married couple have joint rights to property acquired during a marriage.  Those holding shared rights might also be unrelated such as when through cooperative ownership, or where business partners own property together.