Women's Rights to House and Land: China, Laos, Vietnam

Women's Rights to House and Land: China, Laos, Vietnam

Women's Rights to House and Land: China, Laos, Vietnam

Women's Rights to House and Land: China, Laos, Vietnam

Synopsis

The authors of this volume focus on such issues as property use and ownership, efforts to recognize women's economic rights through development programming, poverty and women-headed households, and household bargaining. The impact of various development policies is also surveyed.

Excerpt

“Women's rights are human rights” has become a celebrated declaration since the Convention on Human Rights met in Vienna in 1993. It was also a theme of the Fourth World Conference for Women in Beijing in 1995. The challenge in this statement addresses the tendency in many countries to separate family or customary law from civil law and to view human rights through a narrow lens. This volume focuses on property rights to housing and land as a significant part of women's human rights. A huge transfer of assets is under way in the privatization reforms in China, Vietnam, and Laos with almost no attention to the gender dimensions of the transfer. The chapters here examine how transition policies affect women's rights as families get use and ownership titles to state and traditionally managed land and housing.

Although virtually every country that has become independent since World War II has included equality for women and men in its constitution, customary practices have tended to prevail. The demand that women have equal rights in all matters has focused on a woman's rights to control and safeguard her body—matters relating to domestic violence and reproduction. Because a woman without any economic base lacks power to demand such rights, providing income opportunities has preoccupied those organizations that support women. Yet, working without guarantees for shelter and some access to land use is crippling for most women in lower-income countries, and the absence of these guarantees in turn limits women's income opportunities.

Seeking out information on women's rights to house and land as presented in this book entailed the efforts of many graduate students: Jennifer Sowerwine and Lan-Chi Po at the University of California (UC), Berkeley; Wendy Madrigal and Lyn Jeffrey at UC Santa Cruz; and Donna Burr, Maigee Chang, and Anne Talsma at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. The Institute for Urban and Regional Development at UC Berkeley administered the project and assisted in editing; Barbara Hadenfeldt, Chris Amado, David Van Arnam, and Jenna Loyd were all unfailingly supportive. Jody Ranck and Jennifer Sowerwine commented thoughtfully on the manuscript.

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