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Inheritance Rights of Women in Agricultural Land


Inheritance Rights of Women in Agricultural Land

The clinching argument in favour of land titles to women is the stability and security it provides and the protection it affords from marital violence

Women’s importance in agricultural production both as workers and as farm managers has been growing in the last two decades, as more men move to non-farm jobs leading to an increased feminization of agriculture. Today 48 percent of all male workers are in agriculture as against 75 percent of all female workers, and this gap is rising. Further, an estimated 20 percent of rural households are de facto female headed, due to widowhood, desertion, or male out-migration. These women are often managing land and livestock and providing subsistence to their family with little male assistance. Hence agricultural productivity is increasingly dependent on the ability of women to function effectively as farmers.

However ownership of land is concentrated mostly in male hands in our patriarchal society. It has been estimated that in India, landownership in favour of women is not more than 2 percent (Agarwal 1995). Lack of entitlement to land (and other assets such as house, livestock, and so on) is a severe impediment to efficiency in agriculture for women cultivators because in the absence of title women cannot get credit or be entitled to irrigation and other inputs, especially technology. Women’s working on land without title has led to creation of a new form of Zamindari (landlordism), as their operation is divorced from ownership. It may be recalled that Zamindari was abolished some sixty years back on considerations of both efficiency and equity. The discrepancy between the ownership and operation of land was regarded as one of the basic maladies of agrarian structure that acted as a ‘built-in-depressor’. It led to not only inefficient utilisation of given scarce resources but also stood in the way of augmenting these resources. Thus in every state the policy of abolishing all intermediary interests and giving ownership to the actual operator on land was adopted soon after independence. Time is ripe now to do so for women farmers too.

In addition to improved production, the clinching argument in favour of land titles to women is the stability and security it provides, the protection it affords from marital violence, and the bargaining power it gives women in household decision making and in the labour market for wages. However without title to land, women are not recognized, even by the state, as clients for extension services or as candidates for membership in institutions such as co-operative societies.

Why land is important for women


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