New Study Highlights Barriers to Women’s Land Access in Vietnam

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By Ibadet Reller

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Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

The International Center for Research (ICRW), along with the Institute for Social Development Studies (ISDS), today released findings from a study carried out by the Vietnam Land Access for Women (LAW) program, which aims to help farmers – particularly women – realize their land rights.

“Growing awareness and policy attention to women’s property rights has resulted in increasingly progressive laws in Vietnam that promote such rights. Yet a very small proportion of land is owned by women,” said ICRW’s Gina Alvarado, gender and evaluation specialist and director of this project. “Through this project, we want to identify and address the barriers that hinder women’s ability to claim their rights as property owners.” 

Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the LAW program is a two-year pilot effort that aims to strengthen the reach and efficacy of land-related rights for women in two provinces in Vietnam, Hung Yen in the north and Long An in the south. In addition to generating evidence about gender-specific barriers to realizing land rights in rural areas, through this project, researchers will mobilize and train volunteers to serve as legal advisors and help mitigate land disputes.

The new report presents findings from the first phase of this project where researchers gathered information about farmer’s ability to access land and solve land related conflicts at the commune level. Over a period of two months (October and November) in 2014, the team surveyed 864 couples of randomly selected households and interviewed 18 women and 18 men among local government representatives, representatives from civil society and farmers in both provinces.

The study finds that despite the legislative measures to improve women’s access to land, women continue to face multiple disadvantages compared to their male counterparts. The study reveals that an overwhelming majority of landowners in both provinces are men – 62 percent of land owners in Hung Yen and as high as 73 percent in Long An. Only one percent of plots are owned by couples jointly in Long An and 35 percent in Hung Yen, despite the requirements for joint titling.

Traditional practices, pressure from the family and lack of knowledge about system and process of claiming land rights are major barriers to closing the gap between what the law states and its implementation. Less than 30 percent of the respondents knew that widows who remarry do not lose their rights to the land or house inherited from their deceased spouse. In Long An, 28 percent of men and 35 percent of women responded that they did not know or did not think the law allowed childless women to own land and houses.

“Our data show that poor implementation of the land laws, coupled with a lack of an understanding of legal rights has prevented women from having their land and properties transferred to them,” said Khuat Thu Hong, director of the Institute of Social Development Studies, the local partner for this project. “Women are still subject to discriminatory traditional and cultural practices that reinforce gender inequality and present significant challenges to accessing their lawful land and property,” she added.

As part of the project, ICRW and ISDS have also developed toolkits to support the work of the network of community volunteers, which they mobilized early last year to give them training and enable them to educate communities about land rights, mitigate land disputes, and provide legal counseling. These toolkits, now available in both English and Vietnamese, help strengthen volunteers’ roles as legal advisors, providing them important information on rights and gender in Vietnam, land law, land rights and marriage and family, inheritance and monitoring skills for the volunteers.