While women are at the frontline of land-use protests, they are underrepresented in post-eviction negotiation processes, a new research paper shows.
The study, entitled Gendered eviction, protest and recovery: a feminist political ecology engagement with land grabbing in rural Cambodia and published last week in the Journal of Peasant Studies, looked at protests and post-eviction negotiations during a land dispute between villagers, the government and Vietnamese rubber company Binh Phuoc II in Snuol district in Kratie province.
During evictions, men often fled while women stayed, interviews with affected communities in 2014 and 2015 found.
“Women told us they were informed by the authorities present that they could collect their belongings from the rubble ‘quickly’ but that men would be shot if they tried to do the same,” they wrote.
Women often protested – for example in Phnom Penh – as there was “a perceived reduction in the threat of violence” against women compared to men, and better ability to express emotions.
Ran Sopheak Pagna, programme coordinator at grassroots organisation Building Community Voice, said that under Cambodian norms, women were seen as “weaker” and that threats of violence were perceived as being lower when women led protests. “When men beat women, it’s not acceptable,” he said.
But Eang Vuthy, executive director of land rights organisation Equitable Cambodia, partially disagreed. He noted that a number of peaceful protests led by women were met with violence by security forces over the past few years.
“Because the protests and demonstrations become intense . . . [the security forces] have to find a way to put a stop to them,” he said. “This is very concerning.”
Despite being on the frontlines of protests, women were underrepresented in negotiations, according to the researchers, often due to the stigma that women do not understand politics, and because of lower education.
“In contrast to the protest period, when women were being recognized as leaders or as points of contact for media or researchers, in the [negotiations] men took leadership roles,” they write.
While Vuthy agreed that women were underrepresented in negotiations in rural areas, he argued that this was different in the city.
A Land Management Ministry spokesman, Seng Soth, said that he could not comment on the participation of women in protests and negotiations, but said that there were “no evictions” in Cambodia.