Gendered Aspects of Land Rights in Myanmar: Evidence from Paralegal Casework

TitleGendered Aspects of Land Rights in Myanmar: Evidence from Paralegal Casework
Annotated RecordAnnotated
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsPierce CJ, Nant_Thi_Thi_Oo _
Key themesAccessToJustice, CivilSociety-Donors, Gender, Policy-law

Namati offers this brief in the hope that Myanmar’s national reforms and the implementation of the country’s new National Land Use Policy can grow from the lived experience of ordinary Myanmar citizens. Namati and our partners assist farmers in Myanmar to claim their land rights through a community paralegal approach. Community paralegals are trained in relevant laws, community education, negotiation, and mediation skills to work with farmers to resolve a variety of land rights issues. Dozens of data points are documented as part of each case resolution process that illustrate how the legal framework functions in practice. It is this casework data that underpins this policy brief. Focus groups and interviews with paralegals and clients further provide qualitative context and insights. Namati recommends actions the Myanmar government can take as part of implementing its new National Land Use Policy to help increase women’s engagement in land use management and access to tenure rights. This briefing also provides recommendations for civil society organizations interested in the community paralegal model, and, in particular, in increasing the number of women paralegals in the country as a means of women’s empowerment.


Available for download



Document Type



Overall relevance: 

The author and partners assisted farmers in Myanmar to claim their land rights through the help of community paralegals. This case study demonstrates how legal frameworks were enacted in reality. Through data collection, the author provides recommendations to help increase women’s engagement (especially female paralegals) in land management processes.

Key Themes: 
  • Dispute resolution and access to justice - Laws in Myanmar are technically gender-neutral. However, Myanmar society has been historically male-dominated. Thus, the number of women was scarce in the decision-making sectors. Over 15% of female clients did not have land title deeds, exposing them to a more vulnerable position. However, women’s access to land was different based on their ethnicity
  • Gender and land - More than 80% of people seeking land rights were men. As an increasing number of men held land rights on behalf of their household, which formalised the gender imbalance. Joint registration was available but not encouraged. Interviews in Shan State revealed that male farmers earned more than their female counterparts
  • Land policy and land law - Paralegals in this case study worked in their native lands. Female paralegals encountered social challenges such as security and expected household roles. In the group, there were more younger female paralegals who acted as strong advocates of equal land rights: “Many female paralegals responded that they believe women’s rights are very weak in Myanmar but joint registration of land is a concrete way to empower women, and so they strongly encourage their clients to pursue this option.”
  • Civil society and donor engagement in land issues - One of the great challenges in Myanmar involves providing civil society, including women, with the means to speak up against land violations and engage with formal systems to resolve disputes. The paper offers many positive examples of people becoming advocates, and indeed demonstrates a feedback loop whereby providing secure land tenure can breed confidence and help this process, especially for women.
Research basis: 

Data was collected from resolved cases to depict the reality of each process. Interviews with paralegals and clients were also conducted. Quantitative data was compiled from the author’s network of paralegals. Case studies were taken from over 3,000 land cases. (Provided by Ponpavi Sangsuradej)