Rights are that sort of tool given to citizens in every country which empowers the citizen to live peacefully in the country. These right are equally distributed among men and women of the country but in this world, there are so many countries where still the rights of women are hampered in every aspect it can be civil, political, fundamental and rights related to the property are recognized in very fewer countries because still the property rights of women are limited and regulated by social norms, customs and legislation hampering their economic status. There are so many countries where women constitute the major part of doing agricultural work but their economic status is very low because they are not the owner of the land. If women will become the owner of the land it will empower them by providing income and security. To secure the women in every aspect there are so many steps have been taken internationally and as well as taken by the Indian government also. Since it is also enshrined in provisions of the constitution such as in Article 14, 15 and also in Directive Principles of State Policy regarding gender equality but when we talk about property rights still there are some lacunae which need to filled and some are filled already so this article talks about these kinds of rights only.
Reason behind empowering women through property rights
Discrimination against women in the area of land is pervasive, in many countries, women do not have equal legal rights to have or use land and often women are restricted to secondary land rights, whereby they hold their rights through a male family members relations and also in numerous many countries according to customary law around the world, but the women who are widow they can’t inherit the property of the dead husband. Such worst condition from which women were suffering.
Securing rights to land for women also helps to raise the status of women within their families and communities which is an important step to achieving gender equality, as it leads to women’s increased decision-making power, greater autonomy, and economic independence, and greater participation in the community and through this the provisions enlisted in the constitution for gender equality by incorporating Article 14 and Article 15 will be implemented completely in a practical sense also.
Research evidence suggests that secure land rights for women may help prevent the spread of HIV by promoting women’s economic empowerment, thereby reducing their vulnerability to some forms of gender-based violence and exploitation, unsafe sex, and other AIDS-related risk factors.
For women, securing land and property rights has become increasingly important in the fight to alleviate extreme poverty in some of the poorest regions of the world, through equalizing control and access to land including through inheritance rights. This includes the rights to own, use, and make decisions regarding the disposition, development, and economic benefits of resources in connection with the land and its use in agriculture production and natural resource output. It is important to understand that in order for the transformative potential of these rights to take root, securing rights to land will not serve its purpose and women should themselves secure their rights.
How and when women’s property and inheritance rights have been evolved in India
In earlier times Smritis, commentators, and judicial decisions talk about the property rights of women and they defined the one term called Stridhan and through this word only the concept of the property of women was evolved. And they classified the property of women into two types:
1. Those properties over which she has absolute ownership.
2. Those properties over which she has limited ownership.
The property comes under the first category will be termed as ‘stridhana’ and that falling under the latter category is termed as ‘woman’s estate’. But this idea has changed now consistent with Hindu Succession Act, 1956 any property acquired by a Hindu female either before the announcement of the Act or after it and which has been in her possession on the date of such commencement, would be her absolute property, which can be termed as Stridhan within the modern sense. The Act has also defined the difference between stridhan and women estate. It also defines the difference between stridhan and women’s estate and a general rule of succession.
What actually stridhan is?
The word stridhan is consists of two words: Stri (woman) and Dhana (Property). The word means the property owned by a lady or women’s property.
According to Manu, whatever has been given to women at the time of the nuptial fire, at the time of departure of time, and whatever has been given to women out of love and affection all these gifts come under stridhan.
According to Dayabhag: some parts of the property will fall under stridhan and that property which can be alienated by women will be the stridhan. Dayabhag interpreted the word ‘Adya’ referred to by Vijnaneshwara in Yajnavalkya Smriti as ‘Avam’.
So basically, stridhan was the gifts given to the women and other assets by her paternal family at the time of the wedding to help her in transition into married life. This was different from the dowry because it was totally owned by women after her marriage. This concept of stridhan has also been incorporated but it has now incorporated in form of law because it has been there in Hindu Succession Act, 1956 which clearly states that the property acquired by a Hindu woman to be absolutely her property, and therefore her Stridhan. Under Muslim law, there is Meher which is similar to stridhan which is gifted to the woman at the time of the wedding and it becomes her property.
Now the situation in India has been changed now from earlier times more because now the women of India has been talking about alimony rights, maintenance rights, and personal rights. And since gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles. The Constitution not only grants equality to women but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favor of women.
In recent years, the empowerment of women has been recognized because of the central issue in determining the status of women. Some important steps have been taken by the Indian government
● Establishment of National Commission of Women in 1990 to safeguard the rights and legal entitlements of women.
● The 73rd and 74th Amendments (1993) to the Constitution of India have provided for reservation of seats in the local bodies of Panchayats and Municipalities for women, laying a strong foundation for her participation in deciding at lower levels also.
● India has also ratified various international conventions and human rights instruments committing to secure equal rights of women. One of the major steps was the ratification of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1993.
Some international agreements which empowered women’s land and Property Rights
UN Women advocates for women’s land and property rights as part of its core strategy to reinforce women’s economic security and rights and reduce feminized poverty (According to UN report data). There is a robust specialization in ensuring that women should enjoy equal rights to property under the law also they should be able to practice in the lower levels also.
Beijing platform of action:
This agreement affirmed that women’s right to inheritance and ownership of land and property should be recognized. It was the fourth world conference held in Beijing, China. This conference is known for one of the important for recognizing women’s rights and the violation of the rights of Nigerian women also gets recognized in this conference.
Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
CEDAW is an international treaty created by States as part of the UN system of international human rights laws. The Convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 19 December 1979 and came into force on 3 September 1981.
CEDAW is a big tool to empower women through various means and in this convention, it was also explained why there was a need for property rights to women. Below are some tools which this convention frames to ensure property rights to women.
• States should develop campaigns based on CEDAW to highlight and remove cultural and gendered practices prohibiting women from enjoying secure rights to land.
• The state should allocate budget/monetary resources for programs and services aimed at the implementation and monitoring of CEDAW at local and national levels.
• States should develop measures to raise awareness about and address inequality of access to legal mechanisms for settling land disputes and structures for recording the transfer, sale, and distribution of land (through initiatives such as processes for filing complaints, fees for complaint process, and physical access to courts and government offices).
•It advocates for the ratification of CEDAW within existing State and local land laws and policies so that its implementation will also be seen in practical sense otherwise it will be on paper only.
Asking the States to properly regulate business entities involved in large scale land acquisitions and development projects to ensure that women’s human rights are protected and respected, including requiring increased transparency in the process and monitoring the effects of such land transactions.
There are also articles which majorly talks about the land and property rights of women are Article1, 2, 3, 5, 14.2, 15, and 16.
There are so many agreements that have been signed internationally to ensure equality for women and boost them in respect of property rights also.
Current position property rights of women in India
The property rights of women were highly fragmented because the rights were decided on the basis of their status in the family, their married status and whether she is daughter, married or unmarried and what kind of property one was asking about the property whether it is a self-acquired, land or dwelling house or matrimonial property. Prior to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and the customary laws different schools of law deals with the property rights of women but later on after independence legislations were framed to regulate these rights.
The Hindu Succession Act came into force in the year of 1956 and it was the primary legislation after independence to reduce the confusion regarding property and inheritance matters and also to address gender inequalities in the area of inheritance. Before this law, the Hindu Women’s Rights to Property Act, 1937 was in operation and though this enactment was itself radical because it conferred rights of succession to the Hindu widow for the first time, it also gave rise to lacunae which were later filled by the Hindu Succession Act (HSA)
Main features of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956;
● Limited estate given to women converted into an absolute one.
● Female heirs other than the widow and their position were strengthened.
● The principle of simultaneous succession was also introduced.
● Remarriage, conversion, and unchastity are no longer held as grounds for disability to inherit.
● Even the unborn child, son or daughter, has a right if s/he was in the womb at the time of death of the intestate if born subsequently.
Steps that India can take to ensure these rights to women
The Law Commission of India on August 31, 2018, recommended some suggestions some reforms to bring about the real gender parity at the ground level by doing some changes in family law, so these suggestions of Law commission should be implemented. The recommendations regarding equal share in marriage property to women and suggested to remove the structure where male-only enjoys centralized control over family assets should also be considered.
The Law Commission also highlights the need to reform some personal laws of India to ensure the property and inheritance rights to the widow and unmarried women in the country.
They also suggested the introduction of no-fault divorce in the personal laws of India and also to incorporate the provision of diving the property acquired after marriage. Some research also suggests that ensuring women’s inheritance rights and rights to own assets are protected will result in an economically empowered population of women, and studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between the economic empowerment of women and rise in household income, healthcare spends, education spends and childcare spends for a family.
So, if these recommendations of the commission will be implemented then the rights to women can be secured more.
There are so many rights for which women are fighting such as they are marital property. There is also a big movement in a number of Capitol Hill states, towards community ownership of land by women by creating group titles and promoting group production and management of land and natural resources by landless women for joint cultivation or related farm activity. Land rights would be linked to the residence and dealing ashore under this approach being lobbied for under the Beijing Platform for Action. However, the challenges are many: social acceptance of women’s rights in property leads them.
Since it is mentioned above that several steps have been taken to empower women in every aspect but there are many things which are present in paper only not implemented properly in a practical sense. So, there is a need to implement properly and also to create awareness amongst women so that they can fight for their rights. Law Commission recommendations need to implement if India wants to empower women through property rights indirectly economically.
“The views of the authors are personal“
Frequently Asked Questions
Why women empowerment is necessary?
The empowerment of women is necessary for the proper development of society. It also enhances the quality and quantity of human resources available for development. It is one of the main concerns when we talk about human rights.
What is the essential factor for the empowerment?
The essential factors for the empowerment of women are self-confidence, exposure, and independence. As man and women are the major components of society. So these factor is equally divided between both genders after then the proper development start.