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2015 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

3. Displacing Women, Resettling Families: Impact of Landslides on Women’s Land Tenure Rights in Sri Lanka

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Abstract

Landslides occur regularly in the hilly areas of Sri Lanka. This chapter focuses on the proposed voluntary displacement and resettlement process that took place in a landslide-affected hilly town in Sri Lanka. A gender impact assessment of the process reveals two major effects on the lives of women: it deprived them of economic opportunities since they would be resettled far away from the original area which offered them livelihood; and it affected land ownership rights accorded to women by traditional legal systems. Considering that the unit of analysis for resettlement was the household, patriarchal bias in official decision-making tended to confer ownership of the new property on the official head of the household, often a male, even if the de facto owner of the original property was a woman. The coexistence of tradition and modernity in a changing social environment created contradictions among women and men. Trapped between these paradoxes, women faced the threat of increased vulnerabilities and erosion of their traditional rights.
Footnotes
1
Studies have shown that low-income groups suffer most in disaster situations as they lose the little they have and are left with basically nothing to rebuild their lives and women of these underprivileged groups suffer the most (Lohani/Acharya 2003; Ariyabandu/Wickramasinghe 2003). Lack of decision-making power in the resettlement processes also exposes the lower classes and women to numerous negative ramifications.
 
2
Then known as Ceylon, the country was under European rule for almost five decades. First, the coastal areas fell under Portuguese rule, then under Dutch rule, and finally under British rule. The Kandyan Kingdom was subjugated by the British in 1815.
 
3
Sinhalese form the majority (74 %) in Sri Lanka followed by Tamils (16 %) and Muslims (8 %) (Sri Lanka Census of population and Housing 2011).
 
4
The Government of Sri Lanka, Marriage and Divorce Act (Kandyan) Act Nos. 44 of 1952; 34 of 1954; 22 of 1955, Chapter 132, August 1, 1954 (Act 41 of 1975); Par 4 Section 32—Divorces.
 
5
The Government of Sri Lanka, Marriage and Divorce Act (Kandyan) Act Nos. 44 of 1952; 34 of 1954; 22 of 1955, Chapter 132, August 1, 1954 (Act 41 of 1975); Par 4 Sections 8 and 19.
 
6
Field data from the Mahaweli System C resettlement area.
 
7
Most natural disasters have a human/social stake and, therefore, can often be prevented or mitigated if proper actions are taken. According to Strydom (2002), contemporary risks are not simply physical or objective properties of a real phenomenon but are social or collective constructs.
 
8
‘Binna’ is a traditional system of marriage that came within the purview of the Kandyan law where a man moves into a woman’s property after marriage and the woman is accorded considerable rights.
 
9
Eichler (1991) points out that considering family/household as the unit of analysis could overlook the fact that women and men living in these units could enjoy vastly different opportunities and treatments.
 
10
Compromises women make in the face of patriarchal power in order to safeguard the family unit have been well illustrated by several authors in different contexts (Ariyabandu/Wickramasinghe 2003; APWLD 2006b; Abeysekara 2005; Inform 2006; Rees/Bertolemei 2005; Action Aid 2007).
 
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Metadata
Title
Displacing Women, Resettling Families: Impact of Landslides on Women’s Land Tenure Rights in Sri Lanka
Author
Subhangi M. K. Herath
Copyright Year
2015
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16616-2_3