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Explained: Property Rights and Laws for Women in India

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All about individual property rights and laws for women in India and, women’s rights in inherited property, property rights for daughters and married women, etc.

Ground Report | New Delhi: Women’s rights and empowerment are talked about loudly in the country. From the judiciary to the governments, continuous efforts are also being made in this direction and the rights of women have also been protected in almost every sector. According to existing laws, a daughter has the same right as a son over the property of a father. It has been 15 years since the amendment of The Hindu Succession Act (2005), but a lot of women, even educated ones, are the dark about their rights over inherited property.

Let’s now take an in-depth look at what your rights are under each o these sections. It is important to be aware of your legal rights about the division of inherited, husband’s or children’s property so you can claim your rights when the time comes.

What are the women property rights?

Women, under international law, have equal property rights. It applies to both movable and immovable (or tangible and intangible) properties. However, in many countries of the world, women’s property rights are limited by norms, religious traditions, social customs, and legislation.

Property rights India; Why are women property rights important?

Unless women are granted property rights, a country can’t develop. Women’s property rights promote gender equality, which eventually leads to development. Lack of these rights causes underemployment of women and keeps them impoverished. According to UN-Habitat, every 1 in 4 developing countries has laws that impede women from owning property. As argued by World Bank, countries with unequal inheritance laws have also unequal property rights regimes.

Hence, women’s property rights are important, as these are fundamental to women’s economic security, social and legal status, and sometimes their survival.  Land and property ownership empowers women and provides income and security. Without property rights, women have limited say in household decision-making and no recourse to the assets during crises (be it divorce or death of a husband or any other difficult situation). The lack of property rights also results in domestic violence.

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What does Indian law say about the property rights of women? 

India doesn’t have a Uniform Civil Code, which means the law in matters pertaining to inheritance and sharing of property differs for people from different faiths. The two important laws in regard to property share are the Hindu Succession Act, 2005, and the Indian Succession Act, 1925.

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Property rights India; Before getting into the nuances of these acts, we must understand two legal terms: testamentary and intestate. A registered will plays a significant role in testamentary succession; it supersedes all laws. For example, if a father legally bequeaths the whole of his property to his son through a will, that is final.  Just like in the 2019 mystery film Knives Out, the owner of the property can leave it to a complete stranger, who is not his kin and kith.  

An intestate person is one who dies without writing a will. In that case, the property is divided equally between all his children irrespective of gender, according to the above-mentioned laws.

The Hindu Succession act, 2005: Applies to cases without a will i.e intestate Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains.  

The Indian Succession Act, 1925: Transfer of property of Hindus and Muslims by a will (testamentary succession), Christians, Parsis, and Jews are governed by The Indian Succession Act. 

Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937: Applies if there is no registered will. Muslims rely on the laws of the sect they belong to. 

Do Christians and Muslim women also have an equal share in the property of the father? 

Yes. A daughter is entitled to inherit an equal share as a son in the Christian law. But there is a need to re-examine the Muslim woman’s right to property. A daughter receives only half of the share of a son. Even if the father wants to give her an equal share through a will, existing laws do not permit it. There is strong opposition to it, and Muslim women are filing PILs asking for an amendment in the law.

What rights do women have over their husbands’ property? 

Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Sikh women: The property of the husband is equally divided between the wife and the children. Widowed women also have equal rights to their departed husbands’ property, as their children. If alimony and maintenance are settled, divorced women will have no claim over the property of the former husband, even though their children do. 

Muslim women are entitled to 1/8th of the share of the predeceased husband if they have children and 1/4th if they have no children. 

Christian, Paris, and Jew women receive 1/3rd share of the predeceased husband if they have children and half of the share if they have no children. 

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What are the benefits of women property rights?

Property rights confer many benefits on women and their families including increased bargaining power, (Social Protection and Economic Autonomy. Women’s rights increase the bargaining power of women both in and outside the household and views are heard.

While in developing countries, parents are usually dependent on their children. Children take care of their parents if parents retain control over their productive assets and are enjoying property rights. Strong property rights give women the much-needed economy whether they are living with their parents or husband. If they lack access to property rights, they remain dependent and their household work and other activities remain invisible and vanished.

There is a popular sentiment in society that since women anyway receive valuable gifts from their parents during festivals, besides her share of dowry, she should not claim property from the paternal home. How does one address this?  

Property rights India; That is just a supportive strategy. Parents or brothers shower her with gifts at her marriage and exclude her from the big picture. But a woman is entitled to the properties of both her husband and her father. It is ironic how men expect their wives to bring property from paternal homes but are not willing to give the legitimate share to their sisters.   

In a just, democratic society, women should avoid having grand weddings and the concept of dowry should be abolished. These should be replaced with an equal share in the property when the time comes.

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