Just one in ten women whose parents own agricultural land inherit any land, a soon-to-be-published study by U.N. Women and the land rights advocacy group Landesa has shown. Eight years after women were given equal inheritance rights in law, dowry is still seen as ‘adequate’ recompense for inheritance, the study finds.
In 2005, India amended the Hindu Succession Act to give sons and daughters equal rights in inheriting agricultural land. (Five southern States — Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra — had already amended their State laws between 1986 and 1994.) The study, the first substantial evaluation of the impact of the amended law, covered a sample of 1,440 women and 360 men in three States — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh — between August and October 2013.
Despite the poor impact of the 2005 legislation, the study still showed that laws are significant. Andhra Pradesh, which has had an equal inheritance law in place for 20 years more than the other two States, had over four times the rate of female inheritance as in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh; over one-third of women in the AP sample had either inherited parental land or expected to as compared to 8% in Bihar and 7% in MP. Moreover, the rate of female inheritance has gone up substantially in AP, the researchers found, since far more women in the sample had inherited land than their mothers had. Overall, only 36 women in the entire sample said they had claimed parental land and of these only six women reported being the ones who had handled the paperwork. Women inheriting land is so uncommon that 69% of the women interviewed said that they didn’t know any woman who had inherited land from her parents.
If the women in the sample had inherited the share of land that they are entitled to by law, they would have inherited an average of 11.88 decimals of land each, the study found. The real average, however, was just 0.93 decimals of land each. Nor was the value of dowry received by women in the sample equivalent to the value of land they were legally entitled to, the study found. “Dowry is used as an alibi to deny women land rights,” Anisa Dabroo, Landesa’s national advocacy manager, told The Hindu . Those women who had received land as dowry had no papers for the land, she said.
Three out of four women were aware that daughters had the right to inherit land from their parents, but most were unaware of the specifics of the law. The majority of women said that they did not want to inherit land, because of the opposition they would face within their families. Proving their apprehensions well-founded, the majority of men said that they were opposed to their sisters or daughters inheriting land, the survey found. Land and revenue officials were overwhelmingly male and most were unaware of the specific clauses of the Act.
Despite law, dowry is still seen as ‘adequate’ recompense for inheritance, says study