An article in the feminist, scientific, peer-reviewed journal Psychology of Women Quarterly says that when women in developing countries own land, they are less likely to experience violence.
Psychologists Shelly Grabe, Rose Grace Grose and Anjali Dutt analyzed anecdotes Grabe cataloged by speaking with 492 women in Nicaragua and Tanzania in 2007 and 2009 respectively.
Grabe wanted to show that the power dynamic between men and women changes when women own land and that gender-based violence against women drops with property ownership.
"Women in both countries connected owning property to increased power and status within their communities and to having greater control within their relationships," the authors write.
Grabe believes that violence against women is not about people but is instead the result of systems of power, and it can change when the power relationship changes.
"When we think about violence against women we often focus on isolated cases," Grabe said in a statement. "If we keep assuming the problem is a matter of a 'few bad apples' or 'fundamentalists' that we need to bring to justice we will never eradicate the problem. The findings suggest that if we shift the structures (thereby shifting views of women) it will also shift domestic relations which dramatically improve women's risk.
Physical and psychological violence against women is a result of structural, gender-based inequalities such as the lack of access to resources, equal pay, and representation in politics, she believes. "These inequalities grant men disproportionate power over women and as a result we see male control and dominance being exerted over women's bodies in the form of violence."
Some believe that globalization and its economic benefits are actually a negative when it comes to culture. Because the International Monetary Fund and World Bank require private land ownership as a prerequisite for economic aid, communist or feudal land contracts don't qualify. Critics believe that encouraging democracy and land ownership is giving women less rights than they had under socialist/communist regimes.
Grabe disagrees and the stories she was told led her to believe that women in newly privatized areas are using land as a proxy of power. "Property grants them rights" and the women are very strategic about it, she said. "They knew that if they had land they'd change the power dynamic. They were very clear about the social inequity."
Previously, women would in effect grant rights to men. "Women would say, 'he has the rights, he owns the land, he owns the cattle,'" Grabe said.
Grabe believes those rights include a right to exert violence but that once a woman becomes a property owner she gains rights to not be hit. So rather than intervene, she believes grassroots women's organizations should continue to make a concerted effort to tackle the problem of violence against women by going to the root of the problem–structural inequality instead of intervening in individual cases with women who are targeted.
"In order to address rates of violence against women we need to address the structure of inequities," she said.