Abstract This paper seeks to critically examine the conceptual linkages between the issue of land rights for women, with household food security on the one hand and gender equality on the other. After a brief analysis of shifts in both international and national policy discourse and practice in terms of control over land as vital for food security, it seeks to analyse the implications of this for gender relations. The paper argues that in a context of diversified rural livelihoods, the contribution of agricultural production to household subsistence has been declining. This trend has been reinforced by a decline in public investment, stagnant growth and fluctuating prices for agricultural products. Men have been able to access the better paid, non-farm jobs, while leaving women behind to manage agricultural production. The renewed link between production and food security in agricultural policy has however meant allowing men not to have responsibility for household food security. While a right to land for women is a positive development, it appears also to be leading to an enhancement of work burdens, without much change in terms of status or decision-making authority.