The Arunachal Pradesh State Commission for Women (APSCW) has defended a “contentious” Bill it has drafted for providing equal inheritance rights to women in the State.
The panel has also advised critics to go through the draft Arunachal Pradesh Marriage and Inheritance of Property Bill, 2021, carefully before commenting and give suggestions if there is any room for improvement.
Various community-based and students’ organisations as well as political parties in the State have slammed the draft Bill as “anti-tribal”, “anti-Arunachal”, violative of customary laws and an invitation to outsiders to take over tribal land through marriage.
Members of the APSCW and the Arunachal State Commission for Protection of Child Rights had been working on the draft Bill.
“It has taken years to draft it and was finalised after several awareness camps, discussions with community-based organisations and students unions. A lot of research has also gone into it,” APSCW chairperson Radhilu Chai Techi told journalists in State capital Itanagar on Saturday.
She said the opposition to the draft Bill was based on a clause that was redrafted long ago. A couple of new clauses deal with the rights of an Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribe (APST) woman married to a non-APST man, she added.
According to one of the clauses, such APST women shall enjoy the rights to any immovable property inherited from the head of the family in her lifetime. “Under the other clause, the heirs and husband of such a woman would have all the rights to dispose of moveable property owned and acquired by her to any indigenous tribal of the State,” Ms. Techi said.
The APSCW chairperson referred to a Supreme Court order saying every indigenous citizen of the State is born a Scheduled Tribe and no one can cancel a woman’s ST status even if married to a man from another community.
“The demand of a few people to cancel the ST status of APST women married to non-APST men is futile, if looked into constitutionally. We can’t overlook the constitutional rights of women by birth,” she said, seeking suggestions for framing a better law to safeguard the rights of women in Arunachal Pradesh.
“The commission is not against any customary practices. The draft was made incorporating inputs from the Special Marriage Act. Moreover, the draft clearly specifies land owned by parents and not ancestral lands,” Ms. Techi said.
The commission was also working on polygamy because it was interlinked with the rights of the women, she said.