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Deprived of #Land Ownership, Indian #Women are Stripped of #Power

September 29, 2015

Hindu women & property: Myth vs reality

Indian Women provide more than half of all agricultural labour yet own less than 13 per cent of all land. In fact this national average is considerably lower, and is spiked up only by inclusion of states like Kerala, where women own 43 per cent of landed property. Daughters inherit property from their mothers in a few matriarchal communities in the South. In northern states, women’s right over property remain entangled in moorings of the past, despite progressive laws. Land ownership a strong tool of empowerment– eludes women, despite the guarantee of legal framework. Criminal cases related to property ownership of women in urban areas, such as Panchkula, would reflect the enormity of social bias that runs through society against women’s true empowerment. Anuradha Adhikari  received a two-canal house, bequeathed by her mother.  

The house was registered in Anuradha’s name in 2004 and a registered will to the effect was left in the custody of their family lawyer by her mother, a medical professional. The lawyer sold the house to two different buyers without her consent, after manipulating the Will. When Anuradha contested the Will, the lawyer offered a sound justification for his actions, which are in tune with the political history of land ownership in the region. “What for does a single woman need property worth crores?” he contested. Despite Anuradha’s education and a sound social background, she had to partially concede to the lawyer’s demand. Else, she would be involved in a long-drawn legal battle. Gift and sale deeds registered in favour of male members in Punjab and Haryana. In some cases the land is automatically registered in the girl’s name but remains in de facto possession of the brother. “If we go by the number of women demanding share in property, it’s not even one per cent. They are told, you got your share in dowry and they believe it,” says Santosh Dahiya, the first-ever woman national president of Sarv Jatiya Maha Panchayat. “Gap in knowledge of gender and property ownership is more pronounced for urban women than it is for rural women,” says Bipasha Baruah author of Women and Property in Urban India. A strong correlation has been established between landlessness and poverty.

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