Divorcing Their Husbands To Get Land: One Route To Empowerment In China

Forbes reports on a creative way women in Guangxi are seeking compensation for land that’s been sold for development:

The land in dispute here, near the capital city of Guangxi, was swallowed up for urban development under the principle of eminent domain. “These expropriations are the biggest source of local government revenue in China and on average make up 40% of annual revenue for the [local] governments,” says Hanstad.

The law in China states that all land owners need to be compensated. But this particular village arbitrarily–and illegally– changed that to say that since the women had married out of the village, they no longer had rights to the land or compensation for it. The women appealed to the court of law but the Supreme Court of the province instructed the local courts to not hear the case.

The women then found a loophole in the made-up law. It said “as long as they are married” they were ineligible for compensation. So all 16 of them promptly divorced their husbands.

RDI is now working with the women and the local government to help them get their due compensation. (RDI is also launching two programs to help women in India and Uganda secure their land rights. In West Bengal it is working with the government to provide landless families who have daughters and no sons, with micro-plots of land. Each land title will name the girls as co-inheritors. In Northern Uganda it will work with clan elders to help women and girls displaced by 20 years of civil war get rights to land. During the recent Clinton Global Initiative, RDI received $17 million in commitments from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Omidyar Network, the Nike Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund these two programs.) And while the women in Guangxi Province still haven’t been compensated for their land, they continue to shack up with their ex-husbands.

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