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2015 | Book

Gender and Land Tenure in the Context of Disaster in Asia


About this book

This book explores an interdisciplinary field at the intersection of gender and development studies, disaster and land tenure policy. It is well known that women generally have weaker claims to land. But how does that translate to increased vulnerability during disaster? Using case studies from Asia, this book argues that land tenure is a key factor in mitigating the impact of disasters on women. The scale and frequency of disasters have been increasing in recent decades due to human impact on the landscape and climate. Unsustainable farming and land management systems have increased environmental risks and social vulnerabilities. However, around the world the costs of disasters are disproportionately borne by women, due largely to their reduced mobility and lack of control over assets. In post-disaster settings, women’s vulnerabilities increase due to gendered rescue and rehabilitation practices. As such, a gendered approach to land rights is critical to disaster preparedness and recovery.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Gender and Land Tenure in the Context of Disaster
Disasters are both physical and social events and their impact is disproportionately borne by the most disadvantaged communities with the fewest resources to mitigate it. Women’s reproductive and care responsibilities also increase the impact of disaster. Women also have fewer resources to rely on, which hampers their recovery process. In disaster situations, land rights form a key resource. The vulnerability of people, specifically women, with insecure land rights increases exponentially in a disaster situation. As a result, efforts are underway to formalise land rights of marginalized people and increase joint titling of marital property. The case studies in this book suggest that such well-meaning efforts do not always help women; on the contrary, they increase women’s vulnerability to disaster by weakening and eroding their customary land rights. A nuanced approach to gender and land rights would be more useful to women and other disadvantaged groups in the process of disaster preparedness, mitigation and recovery and reconstruction.
Veena N., Kyoko Kusakabe
Chapter 2. Gender Impact of Large-Scale Deforestation and Oil Palm Plantations Among Indigenous Groups in Sarawak, Malaysia
Land and forest ecosystems form the core of the belief systems and daily lives of indigenous forest people and communities. However, State policies and laws introduced in the colonial period, retained and reinforced by post-colonial states have substantially increased the state’s power and are restricting and removing indigenous rights to land and forest resources according to adat (traditional customs). This chapter examines the impact of changing land use and land tenure systems in Sarawak on human rights, livelihoods, and local gender practices. Conversion of forests to oil palm plantations is regarded as a disaster given the importance of land for customary practices, food security and income-generating activities, and other fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. We use the term ‘disaster’ from a variety of perspectives, foremost is the communities’ perspective placed alongside other perspectives such as gender, legal, socio-cultural, economical, and environmental. To support these arguments, this chapter studies the Iban community of Kampong Lebor whose customary lands were cleared by companies to plant oil palm without free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). Large-scale plantations on these lands contributed to significant social and environmental risks and other negative socio-economic and climatic consequences. A human-made disaster in Sarawak was partly averted by restoring traditional land rights and tenure systems; however, without restoring women’s access to forest.
Carol Yong, Wee Aik Pang
Chapter 3. Displacing Women, Resettling Families: Impact of Landslides on Women’s Land Tenure Rights in Sri Lanka
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.
Subhangi M. K. Herath
Chapter 4. Impact of Flash Floods on a Matrilineal Society in West Sumatra, Indonesia
Following a flash flood in 2012 in a matrilineal community in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia, we examine the impact of the flood on women and men in their position as land owners and land users. Every disaster has a social impact that is larger than its physical impact. Land is a key resource for the livelihood in this community, and hence changes in land ownership have a long-term and deep-rooted impact on specific people who have lost or gained land rights. In matrilineal societies, women inherit land but their brothers are its guardians. Considering the matrilineal culture of the Minangkabau people, we also studied the gender and cultural sensitivity of the government and NGO responses to the disaster. The study used observation, key informant interviews, and secondary data. It showed links between gender, land tenure, and disaster in some cycles of disaster management, especially when damage was assessed and landowners identified. The study also reveals that women’s inclusion in disaster preparedness is critical to make disaster management more gender equitable.
Yonariza, Mahdi
Chapter 5. Urbanization and Disaster: Loss of Women’s Property Ownership in Leh, Ladakh
The Himalayan region along the northern border of India has been identified as a high-risk zone, vulnerable to earthquakes, landslides, flashfloods, and drought. Drawing on evidence from the mountain town of Leh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, this chapter explores how State interventions to promote development affect women, particularly with respect to their property relations. This chapter elucidates that development efforts have aggravated the region’s vulnerability to natural disasters. A focus on tourism and associated urban development has affected women’s land ownership as well as adversely affected the environment, which in turn has increased women’s vulnerability to disasters in multiple ways. Women’s property claims are not supported by State law or community practices, compounding their difficulty in disaster response and recovery. We argue for a better alignment of strategies governing urbanization and disasters to mitigate risks and improve disaster responsiveness. We also suggest the need for a shift in strategies, for disaster-risk mitigation to move beyond relief operations. Further, recognition of a heterogeneity of tenure forms that allow women, migrants and relatively weaker groups to establish legal claims on property is required.
Bhuvaneswari Raman
Chapter 6. A Coir Mill of Their Own: Women’s Agency in Post-tsunami Sri Lanka
The 2004 tsunami devastated large parts of the coast in Sri Lanka causing loss of life and livelihoods and displacement of families and communities. Recovering lost livelihoods was a major challenge for the State in the post-recovery process. The case study presented in this chapter describes the experiences of a local women’s organization that faced the challenge of restoring the livelihoods of its members, specifically coir workers. After the tsunami, the fisherfolk became the focus of aid organizations and coir workers were largely neglected. As a result, the men who dominated the coir industry were not interested in reviving it. With the support of local NGOs and CBOs, women coir workers entered this space to establish their own small-scale coir fibre-processing centre and broke the monopoly of private individuals who sold coir fibre at high prices. However, running the coir fibre mill, providing coir fibre to women for production, and negotiating a good price for the coir-based products are new challenges for the women as well as women’s organizations. Disasters can offer women some opportunities to exercise their agency and challenge oppressive social norms and barriers.
Ramanie Jayatilaka
Chapter 7. Gender, Land Tenure, and Disasters in the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia
This case study discusses the many challenges faced by the Mentawai people of Indonesia who are increasingly suffering the consequences of unsustainable development and complex natural and human-made disasters. A brief review of the rich biodiversity and natural resources of Mentawai Islands contextualizes the discussion that follows, namely the different threats to lands, forests and natural resources the Mentawai people find themselves grappling with. This chapter identifies a link between gender, natural resource, land tenure, and disaster and argues that nuances around gender and other categories are inadequately addressed or ignored. We focus particularly on three issues: first, locating Mentawai women’s inheritance rights within the Mentawaian patrilineal social structures and customs that circumscribe women’s rights to land and other property; second, the connection between women’s land tenure and gender differential disaster damages and recovery process; and the third, how gendered land rights/tenure interrelate with the difference of loss and suffering of women and men in Mentawai society and how development agendas and interventions construct vulnerability of women and men differently.
Carol Yong, Frans R. Siahaan, Andreas Burghofer
Gender and Land Tenure in the Context of Disaster in Asia
Kyoko Kusakabe
Rajendra Shrestha
Veena N.
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