Women Property Rights – UPSC GS1

Context: Supreme Court has ruled that daughters will have equal rights to their father’s property even prior to the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act (HSA) of 1956.
SC judgement on women property rights:
  • Daughter now can inherit property by inheritance and not by survivorship if a property of a male Hindu dying intestate (i.e. without will) is a self-acquired property or obtained in partition of a joint heirship or family property. This was not the case earlier.
  • Apex court in 2020 clarified that daughters had coparcenary rights by birth. Coparcenary refers to a person who has the capacity to assume a legal right in ancestral property.
Importance of this judgement:
  • In India women face social and legal hurdles to inheritance due to deep patriarchal custom and rural-agrarian settings.
  • Property is seen as a primary source of wealth and generally passed on to male heirs.  It deprives women of agency, financial independence and entrepreneurship.
  • National Family Health Survey-5 says that 43% of women respondents reported owning house/land alone or jointly. But there is lack of ability to actually access and control property.
  • A 2020 University of Manchester working paper found only 16% of women in rural landowning households own land.
  • Complex inheritance laws for agricultural land with conflicting central personal laws and state laws make the scenario difficult for women. For example, Punjab, Haryana, UP and even Delhi has backward looking inheritance provisions. Haryana twice tried to take away the progressive rights given to women through state laws. In UP since 2016 married daughters aren’t considered primary heirs.
Way Forward:
  • There is need of removing complexities and legal challenges.
  • Women’s empowerment and property rights remain an unfinished project.
  • Hence, we need to reduce ground-level resistance to registering land for women.

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