• Heimuli Paletua


Land is significant to Tongans and Tongan society for economic, social, cultural,
and political development. The largest sector in Tonga is agriculture. Land is
one of the most significant assets that Tongans enjoy and use to provide income
to their families. All land in Tonga belongs to the king of Tonga. One hundred
forty-five years ago, King George Tupou I enacted the Constitution on November
4, 1875, whereby Tongan land cannot be bought or sold. Inheritance of land is
passed through male heirs. Every boy reaching sixteen years of age is eligible for
the ‘api ‘uta (tax allotment) of eight and a quarter acres of agricultural land to grow
food. This same boy is also eligible for the ‘api kolo (town allotment) of a quarter
acre of land to build a house. The aim of this research is to examine the struggles
that Tongan and foreign women confront without landownership. In Tonga’s
quasi-feudal society, land allotments by the king of Tonga provide the mainstay of
economic and social support to commoners. The push of Tongan out-migration
is the lack of capital assets like land to make loans to create new businesses or
diversify existing businesses. Tongans must have access and land allotments to
survive. Magnified by COVID-19 and in the past twenty years, population growth
and out-migration have outpaced land availability, leaving Tongan women without
economic stability or social security to survive. This research shows that there are
landless Tongan commoners living in Tonga today without security or prospects
for a high quality of life that Tongan commoner women suffer disproportionately
in Tongan society. This legal mode of disenfranchisement against Tongan women
has directly contributed to Tongan out-migration and demographic imbalances in Tongan society, negatively impacting all arenas of life and furthering the
cyclical nature of poverty in the country.