The Dark Underbelly of Land Struggles: The Instrumentalization of Female Activism and Emotional Resistance in Cambodia


Hennings, Anne. 2019. “The Dark Underbelly of Land Struggles: The Instrumentalization of Female Activism and Emotional Resistance in Cambodia.” Critical Asian Studies 51 (1): 103–19.

Author: Anne Hennings


Facing land grabs and eviction in the name of development, women worldwide increasingly join land rights struggles despite often deeply engrained images of female domesticity and conventional gender norms. Yet, the literature on female agency in the context of land struggles has remained largely underexplored. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, my findings suggest that land rights activism in Cambodia has undergone a gendered re-framing process. Reasoning that women use non-violent means of contestation and are less prone to violence from security personnel, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) push women affected by land grabs and eviction to the frontline of protests. Moreover, female activists are encouraged to publicly display emotions, such as the experienced pain behavior that sharply contrasts with Cambodian norms of feminine modesty. I critically question this women-to-the-front strategy and, drawing on Sara Ahmed’s politics of emotions approach, show the adverse risks for female activists. Furthermore, I demonstrate that the instrumentalization of female bodies and emotions in land rights protests perpetuate gender disparities instead of strengthening female agency in the Cambodian society and opening up political space for women.

Keywords: dispossession, land grabbing, gendered eviction, politics of emotion, Cambodia

Topics: Civil Society, Gender, Land Grabbing, NGOs, Nonviolence, Political Participation, Rights, Land Rights Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2019

The Aftermath for Women Warriors: Cambodia and East Timor


Blackburn, Susan. 2020. "The Aftermath for Women Warriors: Cambodia and East Timor." In Women Warriors in Southeast Asia, edited by Vina Lanzona and Frederik Rettig, 229-45. New York: Routledge.

Author: Susan Blackburn


This chapter examines what happens to women combatants at the end of armed conflicts, taking case studies from research in Cambodia and East Timor in 2005–2006. The evidence shows that the fate of women ex-combatants depends in part on the nature of the conflict and which side women fought on. The chapter investigates how the process known as disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants was conducted in these two countries, in light of the United Nations resolution recommending gender awareness in DDR. Using the two countries as examples, the chapter notes the difficulties in giving due recognition to female ex-combatants.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, DDR, Conflict, International Organizations, Post-Conflict, UN Security Council Resolutions on WPS Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania Countries: Cambodia, Timor-Leste

Year: 2020

Guarantees of Non-Recurrence of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence against Women after the Khmer Rouge


You, Sotheary. 2019. "Guarantees of Non-Recurrence of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence against Women after the Khmer Rouge." Swiss Peace Cambodia Working Paper Series 6/2019, Center for the Study of Humanitarian Law, University of Basel, Basel.

Author: Sotheary You


Four decades after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodian women continue to suffer from discriminatory social, cultural and economic norms and to experience gender injustice in social and political spheres. Against this background, this paper asks whether and to what extent transitional justice has contributed to providing guarantees of non-recurrence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) against women in Cambodia. This paper examines how the transitional justice process addressed SGBV committed under the Khmer Rouge regime. It shows that transitional justice has not adequately recognized SGBV against women under the Khmer Rouge, that there has been lack of representation of women in the process and that an unfair redistribution of resources after the Khmer Rouge contributed to further discrimination. Drawing from the concept of guarantees of non-recurrence and feminist scholarship on gender justice, this paper highlights how a lack of gender-transformative policy and the government’s lack of capacity to comply with international legal standards has shaped women’s experiences after the Khmer Rouge. It argues that, in order to guarantee the non-repetition of SGBV against women, transitional justice initiatives should aim to address social and cultural injustice effectively; to subvert patriarchal and oppressive norms; and to promote women’s participation in social, economic and political development in Cambodia. It concludes with policy recommendations.

Keywords: Khmer Rouge, guarantee of non-recurrence, transformative reparation, transitional justice, Cambodia, sexual and gender-based violence

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Justice, Transitional Justice, Political Participation, Sexual Violence, SV against Women Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2019

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence: The Case for Transformative Justice in Cambodia


Szablewska, Natalia, and Olga Jurasz, 2018. "Sexual and Gender-Based Violence: The Case for Transformative Justice in Cambodia." Global Change, Peace & Security 31 (3): 263-82.

Authors: Natalia Szablewska, Olga Jurasz


This article aims to advance the idea of transformative justice by building on and expanding the notion of ‘justice’ beyond that traditionally offered by transitional justice discourse and practice. The need for a paradigm shift is warranted by the continued high levels of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), directed predominantly towards women, experienced in post-conflict contexts. Using the example of Cambodia, we argue that the scale of SGBV in a post-conflict country can be an indicator of the extent of ‘transformative’ change taking place, and, thus, of the success of transitional justice processes and democracy consolidation, particularly regarding gender equality. Gender equality is essential for democratisation, as democracy should be both a political and a social project. Thus, democracy- and peace-building efforts require challenging entrenched power hierarchies and deep-rooted gender inequality, of which SGBV is symptomatic.

Keywords: transformative justice, 'transitional justice', sexual and gender-based violence, gender equality, Cambodia, democratisation

Topics: Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Justice, Transitional Justice, Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence, SV against Women Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2018

Sexual and Reproductive Health Is a Security Issue for Southeast Asia


Tanyag, Maria. 2018. "Sexual and Reproductive Health Is a Security Issue for Southeast Asia." Australian ​Journal of International Affairs 72 (6): 495-9.

Author: Maria Tanyag



"Promoting health and well-being among young women and girls is a security issue for Southeast Asia due to the immediate need to bridge health inequalities in the region, especially among populations trapped in cycles of poverty and gender discrimination, and internally displaced populations. The often-deliberate neglect of sexual and reproductive health constitutes significant human rights violations in both crisis situations (disaster and conflict) and the everyday (Tanyag 2018). For young women and girls, sexual and reproductive health is a building block for further developing their human capabilities such as in accessing education and livelihood.

By focusing on access to sexual and reproductive health services and information, I highlight the security dimensions to addressing sexual and reproductive health especially among adolescents as both a pre-condition for truly inclusive leadership necessary to address multiple security threats in Southeast Asia, and an outcome of genuine resilience-building with gender equality at its core" (Tanyag 2018, 495).

Topics: Gender, Women, Girls, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Health, Reproductive Health, Livelihoods, Rights, Security Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines

Year: 2018

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal's First Reparation for Gender-Based Crimes


Grey, Rosemary, Yim Sotheary, and Kum Somaly. 2019. "The Khmer Rouge Tribunal's First Reparation for Gender-Based Crimes." Australian Journal of Human Rights 25 (3): 488-97.

Authors: Rosemary Grey, Yim Sotheary, Kum Somaly


The Khmer Rouge’s crimes of forced marriage and sexual violence have been commemorated in a dance production, entitled Pka Sla Krom Angkar. It is one of several artworks that were recognised in 2018 as “reparations” by the United Nations-backed Khmer Rouge Tribunal, known officially as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). In this article, researchers from Australia and Cambodia reflect on the production’s significance from multiple perspectives. It is a catalyst for discussing human rights; a tool for promoting psychological healing; and a part of the ECCC’s legal process.

Keywords: ECCC, International Criminal Law, Cambodia, forced marriage, gender-based crimes, reparations

Topics: Gender-Based Violence, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, Reparations, Rights, Human Rights, Sexual Violence Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2019

Aftermath: Women and Women’s Organizations In Postconflict Societies: The Role of International Assistance


Kumar, Krishna. 2001. Aftermath: Women and Women’s Organizations In Postconflict Societies: The Role of International Assistance. USAID Program and Operations Assessment Report No. 28, U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington, DC.

Author: Krishna Kumar


Since the end of the Cold War, intrastate conflicts have increased worldwide. Poverty, the struggle for scarce resources, declining standards of living, ethnic rivalries and divisions, political repression by authoritarian governments, and rapid social and economic modernization—all these factors contribute to intrastate conflicts. All intrastate conflicts share a set of common characteristics that have major implications for women and gender relations. First, the belligerent parties deliberately inflict violence on civilian populations. Second, the intrastate conflicts displace substantial numbers of people, mostly women and children. Third, women’s participation in war contributes to the redefinition of their identities and traditional roles. Fourth, there is usually a conscious attempt to destroy the supporting civilian infrastructure, leading to increased poverty and starvation. Finally, these conflicts leave among the belligerent groups within the countries a legacy of bitterness, hatred, and anger that is difficult to heal.

Both men and women suffer from such conflicts. This study examines specifically the effects on women in six casestudy countries: Cambodia, Bosnia, El Salvador, Georgia, Guatemala, and Rwanda. It looks as well at the rise of indigenous women’s organizations—their role, their impact, their future. Teams from USAID’s Center for Development Information and Evaluation visited those countries during 1999. They found the effects of war on women to fall into three broad categories: Social and psychological. Women often were traumatized by the conflict. After the hostilities, many feared for their physical safety. During the early phases of postconflict transition, unemployed militia continued to pose a serious threat to the lives and property of women and children. Fear of violence and sexual abuse (rape had actually been used as a tool of war, to subjugate, humiliate, terrorize) often kept women from moving about freely. Abject conditions in many postconflict societies contributed to the growth of prostitution.

Economic. A major problem was lack of property rights. Women were denied ownership of land their dead husbands or parents had owned. Rural women who owned no land or other assets worked as laborers or sharecroppers, at minimal wages. Urban women carved out livings mostly by selling foods and household items. During conflict, women could work in many occupations. As ex-combatants returned to civilian life, though, female workers were the first to lose their jobs.

Political. In the absence of men, all six countries witnessed an expansion of women’s public roles during the conflict. Women volunteered in churches, schools, hospitals, and private charities. They often took charge of political institutions, enhancing their political skills—and raising their expectations.

The conflicts created a ripe environment for the emergence or growth of women’s organizations. For one thing, the wars undermined the traditional social order; women found it easier to take part in public affairs. Moreover, governmental reforms after the wars created political space to launch women’s organizations. Another factor was disillusionment. During or in the immediate aftermath of the wars, women’s expectations of increased political participation had risen. Those expectations were never fully realized. Finally, the readiness of the international community to provide assistance to such organizations contributed to their growth.

In the case-study countries, women’s organizations have been active in virtually all sectors: social, educational, economic, political. They have established health clinics, provided reproductive health care, organized mass vaccination programs. They have carried out programs to generate income and employment for women, emphasizing microcredit and vocational training. They have grappled with domestic violence, prostitution, and the plight of returning refugees and internally displaced women. And they have promoted democracy and human rights, supported social reconciliation, and worked to increase women’s participation in political affairs.

International assistance has been important to the development of women’s organizations—and will be far into the foreseeable future. Beyond financial support, international bodies have helped indigenous women acquire managerial, accounting, and technical skills. International assistance has also helped legitimize women’s organizations, for example by sheltering them from government interference.

Attending the emergence of women’s organizations is an array of obstacles. They are social and cultural, imposed from without, and organizational, imposed from within. Chief among the former is women’s low social status. At the family, community, and national levels, women confront a lack of support for their public activities. Another outside encumbrance is the short-term nature of international assistance, which prevents long-term planning. Chief among internal obstacles is the reluctance of women leaders to delegate authority and to train junior staff for future leadership. There is, moreover, a lack of communication and sharing among organizations.

The six individual CDIE country evaluations yielded a number of recommendations aimed at making assistance to women’s organizations more effective. Among them: 
1. Build on women’s economic and political gains. Because the postconflict era provides an opening to build on the progress made by women during conflict, it makes sense for USAID to continue to capitalize on this opportunity. 
2. Pay greater attention to civilian security. USAID can assume a leadership role in publicizing the problem of civilian security and the need for concerted action to protect women. The Agency can also encourage other organizations to carry out programs that can enhance physical security for women.
3. Make concerted efforts with the rest of the international community to prevent sexual abuse of women. Measures might include protecting witnesses, training international peacekeepers in gender issues, and promoting more women to international judicial posts.
4. Promote microcredit. USAID should support microcredit programs but not ignore their limitations. They are not cures for all economic problems facing women in postconflict societies.
5. Support property rights for women. USAID should continue supporting property-rights reforms affecting women. This should include not only constitutional and legislative reforms but also their effective implementation.
6. Consider multiyear funding. The assurance of assistance for periods longer than 6–9 months will help build institutional capacity and boost staff morale.
7. Promote sustainability of women’s organizations. USAID could provide technical assistance, when necessary, to improve management; consider funding a portion of core costs, in addition to program costs, for a limited period; and help organizations become self-reliant by such means as improving skills in advocacy, fundraising, networking, and coalition.
8. Promote greater women’s participation in elections. USAID should consider steps to encourage political parties to field women candidates and assist women candidates on a nonpartisan basis.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Civil Society, Displacement & Migration, Economies, Poverty, Gender, Gender Roles, Women, Governance, Elections, Health, Trauma, International Organizations, Livelihoods, Political Participation, Rights, Land Rights, Security, Sexual Violence, SV against Women, Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, Americas, Central America, Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe, South Caucasus Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cambodia, El Salvador, Georgia, Guatemala, Rwanda

Year: 2001

The Gender Dimensions of Post-Conflict Reconstruction: The World Bank Track Record


Zuckerman, Elaine, Suzanna Dennis, and Marcia E. Greenberg. 2007. The Gender Dimensions of Post-Conflict Reconstruction: The World Bank Track Record. Washington, D.C.: Gender Action. 

Authors: Elaine Zuckerman, Suzanna Dennis, Marcia E. Greenberg


This paper is the latest in a Gender Action series underlining the continuing disconnect between World Bank rhetoric on the need for gender equality to reduce poverty, and scarce gender considerations in large Bank investments. Through evaluating World Bank investments in Post-Conflict Reconstruction (PCR) situations including a sample of its large PCR development loans and its small Post-Conflict Fund (PCF) grants, we demonstrate the limited extent to which the world’s largest public development institution meets its own promised objective to “mainstream gender” into all its investments.

This paper belongs to Gender Action’s tradition of holding the World Bank accountable on its unmet gender equality and broader social commitments. Gender Action’s analysis of gender issues in World Bank PCR programs reinforces the findings of our other work demonstrating that Bank loans exacerbate gender discrimination through poverty reduction strategies, policy reforms also known as Structural Adjustment Programs, environment and infrastructure investments. If this pattern does not end, not only will poverty expand but it will continue to feminize in a world where many claim that women already constitute over 70 percent of the poor.

Our paper is structured as follows: Section 2 outlines a conceptual framework to analyze and evaluate the gender dimensions of post conflict work. It suggests three interrelated dimensions for addressing gender within post-conflict reconstruction: (1) women-focused activities; (2) gender aware programming; and (3) social transformation through the promotion of gender equality. Section 3 is the centerpiece of this paper through which we apply the conceptual framework to the Bank’s investments and interventions. It first explains our methodology, and then raises examples. Section 4 reviews the extent to which the World Bank has integrated women-focused activities, gender aware programming and social transformation into important elements of post-conflict reconstruction. Throughout the paper, we recommend genderfocused approaches for building peaceful and equitable post-conflict societies based on examples of World Bank and other donor projects. In Section 5 we conclude with practical recommendations for World Bank PCR to improve its track record on gender both for women and for the families, communities and nations of which they are such an integral part.

Topics: Development, Economies, Poverty, Gender Mainstreaming, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, International Organizations, Livelihoods, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction Regions: Africa, MENA, Central Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, Americas, South America, Asia, Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Angola, Cambodia, Colombia, Iraq, Rwanda, Sri Lanka

Year: 2007

Women’s Unsafe Mobility in Public Transport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia


You, Sotheary. 2019. “Women’s Unsafe Mobility in Public Transport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.” Journal of Peacebuilding & Development 14 (2): 222–27.

Author: Sotheary You


“This briefing focuses on the unsafe mobility of women when they are in transit, with a specific focus on public transportation. Since the Phnom Penh Municipality considers revamping the public transportation system, there is an opportunity for the municipality to craft a gender-responsive public transportation policy” (You 2019, 222).

Topics: Women, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Infrastructure, Transportation, Sexual Violence, SV against Women Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2019

Women and Land Rights in Cambodia


Kusakabe, Kyoko, Wang Yunxian, and Govind Kelkar. 1995. "Women and Land Rights in Cambodia." Economic and Political Weekly 30 (43): WS87-92

Authors: Kyoko Kusakabe, Wang Yunxian, Govind Kelkar


After the abandonment of the 'krom samaki' system of collective farming in 1989, both women and men of the People's Republic of Kampuchea secured equal titles to land under the liberalisation process adopted by the government. However, with contradictory and unclear legislation and with no checks and balances, the number of land disputes increased dramatically. This article attempts to understand the effect of this phenomenon on women's social position and on gender relations in Cambodia.

Topics: Development, Economies, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 1995


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