The implementation of radical reforms in the 1990s resulted in profound changes in legislation and public policy around land rights, contributing to Vietnam’s rapid economic growth. The 1993 Land Law created a land market and prompted a sweeping land redistribution program; within seven years, 11 million Land Use Rights Certificates (LURCS) were issued to rural households. Although this law was supposed to be gender neutral, more men benefited and received a larger portion of the LURCS. The 2003 Land Law corrected some of the gender inequalities by requiring LURCs to record the names of both spouses, as opposed to only the head of the household. However, this supportive legal framework is thwarted by both men’s and women’s general lack of awareness of Vietnam’s property rights laws and lack of resources to enforce women’s property rights at the provincial level. Recent reports on the status of land rights in Vietnam suggest that the allocation and distribution of land is under the discretion of provincial authorities who may be influenced by customary practices which reinforce gender inequalities. As a result, violations of women’s land use rights persist.
To address these challenges, this pilot program will combine commune-level legal rights counseling and education with advocacy efforts. Based in two provinces in Vietnam – Hung Yen in the North and Long An in the South – the program aims to strengthen the reach and efficacy of land rights for farmers, particularly women farmers. by: (i) increasing their awareness of existing land rights under current legislation; (ii) facilitating their ability to access their land rights; (iii) generating evidence about gender specific barriers to realizing land rights in rural areas; and (iv) increasing the capacity of civil society organizations and mass organizations to advocate for gender equitable land reform.
ICRW research shows that community rights workers, or paralegals, are instrumental in protecting and promoting women’s access to justice, land use rights and to resolve property disputes. Thus, the centerpiece of the program is the mobilization and training of 60 volunteer paralegals from four communes across the two provinces. The paralegals will conduct land rights awareness- raising activities as well as provide legal counseling to individuals, mitigate land disputes and offer referrals to navigate the existing legal structures.