In this research brief, Saba Joshi discusses the gendered impacts of land commercialization in Cambodia. Based on qualitative interviews conducted during multiple field visits in 2015 and 2016 in Ratanakiri, Kratié and Kampong Thom, she shows how commercialization affects women’s access to the land and the commons, gender division of labour, violence against women in three regions in Cambodia.

Key messages 

Land commercialization in Cambodia is occurring due to a combination of large-scale and small scale pressures on land. Some factors that contribute to land commercialization include neoliberal development policies, patronage-based governance, increased population growth, and rural to rural migration to areas that are perceived to have an abundance of land.

Women’s access to land: As a result of the uneven distribution of land titles, the proposed benefits of joint titling promised under the 2001 Land Law have not been realized. Moreover, linking access to property to conjugal status may exacerbate gendered insecurities.

Women’s access to the commons: The loss of forest resources due to land concessions, illegal logging and increased in-migration has resulted in loss of food, livelihood and income for rural households. For women, who are traditionally responsible for food preparation, this has meant an increasing dependency on markets for food provision which in certain cases results in reduced accessibility.

Gender division of labour: Economic land concessions have generated few to no job opportunities for local women. Due to their domestic responsibilities, women are paid less and have access to fewer jobs in the rural wage labour market.

Violence against women: There is an increase in incidents of violence against women in households affected by land conflicts. Women land activists that defend their household’s and communities’ rights to land and housing are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence and abuse.

Research Brief: Gendered Impacts of Land Commercialization in Cambodia