Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI – Trần Thị Mai (not her real name), 30, from Mỹ Hào District of Hưng Yên Province, divorced her husband ten years after their marriage due to his continued violence toward her. Mai left and went to China. Two years later, Mai’s younger sister also left her husband because of domestic violence. She also went to China.
In accordance with ancient custom in rural areas, only boys inherit their parents’ property, not girls.
Nguyễn Thị Xưa, head of the Women’s Associationin Dương Xá Village in Dương Quang Commune, Hưng Yên Province, said she knew of a case in which the wife "was chased out of the house after her husband died because she only had a daughter, and a daughter is not the one to be considered the heir.”
A survey carried out among 864 couples in Hưng Yên Province and Long An Province in 2014 by the Institute for Social Development Studies (ISDS) showed that in Long An Province only 1 per cent of the land ownership certificates are registered to both husband and wife. Some 70 per cent are registered under the name of the men in the family. In Hưng Yên Province the rate was 53 per cent. In Thái Nguyên Province, only 5 per cent of land certificates bear the names of both spouses.
“Barriers to women’s ownership of land and inheritance stem from the thinking that men will have to bear the responsibility of worshiping the family’s ancestors, while women will get married and become members of another family,” said Khuất Thu Hồng, director of the Institute for Social Development Studies.
Before 2003, land certificates were only provided to the "head of the household”. The 2013 Law on Land, however, stipulates that husband and wife have equal rights and obligations in the creation, possession, use and disposition of their common property without discrimination between housework and income-generating labour.
Yet, the law is still ignored in many areas, Hồng said.
In a survey carried out nationwide in 2016 by ISDS, only 20 per cent of women were the sole owners of lands or houses.
“In many cases in rural areas when the couples divorces, the wives are left with nothing although they have worked so hard to contribute to the common property. And in many other cases, although the women are the ones bringing in the most income, they have to accept to leave without any rights,” Hồng said.
Hồng said while conservative ways of thinking hindered women from access to land and property ownership, lack of knowledge contributes to the problem. “There’s not enough staff in rural areas to spread the information about such laws. And sometimes the staff themselves are conservative thinkers, who often give priority to men rather than women,” she said.
Some ongoing projects carried by ISDS and several other groups have been providing information, counseling and advocacy for gender equitable implementation of land regulations, as well as legal revisions.
Small changes are beginning to appear: Nguyễn Thị Xưa of the Women Association in Dương Xá Commune said most of young couples in the commune have both their names on the land certificates. Trần Thị Nhung, head of the Women’s Association in La Bằng Commune of Hòa Bình, said more than 60 per cent of couples in the commune now have the land certificates under the names of both husband and wives.
“Equality in possessing property is one of the basic foundations for gender equality. Once women have certain assets, they will be more confident and active in protecting their rights. Their status in society will be different and their voices will mean more. Society, therefore, will benefit more,” Hồng said.--VNS