As the central government and Ekta Parishad signed an agreement on Thursday on the land reforms issue, women and land rights groups wanted to know how serious the government was on women’s land rights issue. “The deal between both the parties is fine but will it strengthen women’s land rights,” asks Gregory Rake, India Country Director of Landesa, previously known as the Rural Development Institute.
Rake’s comment is based on the Landesa and UN Women’s report which concludes that Indian women face barriers in securing access to land. The report was released on October 12, which is commemorated as the International Day for Rural Women.
“Only 4 percent of formally titled plots in Muslim families and none of the formally titled plots in Bihar named women,” says the 28-page report titled ‘Challenges and Barriers to Women’s Entitlement to Land in India.’
According to the report, “Only 12 percent of women respondents reported that they have or believe that they will inherit lands from parents.” The study is based on a survey conducted in two states – Bihar and Andhra Pradesh with interviews of 504 women from scheduled castes and tribes, other backward castes, the general caste Hindu population, Muslims and female headed households.
The study says joint-titling is virtually non-existent in the two states. “Women felt their access to plot was vulnerable if they were to divorce their husbands, had a falling out with their family, or their family incurred debt,” adds the report.
NC Saxena feels that the problem lies with the implementation of government’s law. “The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 came into force on September 9, 2005, which gave the daughter the same rights in the coparcenary property as she would have had if she had been a son. But no single circular has been issued by the government,” laments Saxena, who is also a member of the national advisory council headed by Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance.
“Women-owned plots came from inheritance (39 percent), the market (34 percent), or government allocation (25 percent),” says the report.
The study recommends that government should increase the representation of women at all levels of the revenue administration. “Designing and implementing management information systems can allow decision-makers within the revenue administration to obtain timely and useful data on key areas of their service delivery,” the report informs. Another recommendation the study gives is to ensure gender sensitisation of government services that affect women’s access to and control over land.