India must push for women’s rights in land ownership

Source: Indian Express

Relevance: To understand the pattern of women’s ownership of land.

Synopsis: Despite enabling laws, women’s land ownership are still lagging. This needs concerted social efforts and more vocal claims by women.

What is the challenge?
  • Despite 15 years of the passing of the Hindu Succession Amendment Act (HSAA 2005), the access of women to the property is still poor.
  • Literature shows women’s land ownership would improve their well-being, improve children’s health and education, reduce domestic violence etc.
What does the law say?
  • HSA 1956 had given substantial rights, but there were two major inequalities:
    1. Inheritance of agricultural land devolved according to land reform laws was gender unequal.
    2. Daughters were excluded from coparcenary rights (joint heirship) in the family property.
      • While Kerala abolished joint property, states like AP, TN amended HSA to recognize unmarried daughters as coparceners.
  • But the discriminatory clause for agricultural land still remained.
What is the status on the ground?
  • The first challenge was with respect to the data of gendered ownership, as it was not easily accessible, neither by NSSO survey nor by agricultural surveys.
  • There were also issues of people citing incorrect data.
Results from ICRISAT’s longitudinal data (2009-2014)
  • Women were found to own land in only 16% of the sampled 1,114 rural landowning households.
  • Women constituted only 14% of all landowners and owned only 11% of the land, with an average area of 1.24 ha relative to 1.66 ha for men.
  • Most of the landowning women had acquired land through their marital families, typically as widows and not as daughters through parents.
  • Very few women were co-owners in joint family property, and over half the owners of both genders were aged 50 or more.
  • The state-wise variance was also observed, as female landowners constituted 32% of all landowners in Telangana but only 6% in Odisha.
Factors leading to lower ownership of land by female
  • Fathers fear losing control over land if given to married daughters.
  • Daughters fear damaging family relations if they claim their shares.
  • Policymakers fear land fragmentation.
Way forward
  • India urgently needs more gender-disaggregated data on land ownership, and innovative policies to increase women’s actual ownership.
  • Women should raise their claims more vocally.

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