This online discussion aims to facilitate inclusive exchange of opinion and information on the state of land rights of women in India, the legal, institutional framework and socio-cultural factors affecting women’s equitable land tenure rights, good practices/innovations around women’s land tenure rights by Government/NGO and challenges and opportunities towards realization of  gender equitable land tenure by 2030.  It will analyze the status of data availability and accessibility around women land rights in India with available information from different sources along with an assessment of such sources by the participants with an aim to see if a suggestive framework for open data can be developed and made accessible to help SDG monitoring.

Secure and equitable land rights of women form some of the key indicators of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including 5.a.1 on the proportion of total agricultural population with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land. This indicators is considered to have a potentially transformational role in the achievement of four of the 17 SDGs, including ending poverty (Goal 1), ensuring food security (Goal 2), achieving gender equality and empowering women (Goal 5), and making cities and human settlements inclusive (Goal 11). Gender equality is one of the ten core principles for implementation listed in FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (the “Guidelines”; FAO, 2012).

Secure land rights of women have demonstrated enhanced agricultural productivity and building resilience among the small and marginal farmers, who constitute 75 percent of the farming community.

The Constitution of India provides equal rights to both men and women. Women’s access to land is largely through inheritance and inheritance is governed by customs, which varies across regions and States. There are various property rights regimes prevailing and the succession Acts of various religious laws, which determines women right to property and inheritance. Hindu Succession Act (Amendment), 2005, which applies to a majority of the country’s area and population, has expanded the space for enhanced women’s land rights. The fifth and sixth Scheduled areas have different customary tribal laws on women property rights and inheritance, which also varies, with specific indigenous community laws.

Over the last few years, both central and state governments have made many progressive reforms to realize the goal of secure and equitable land tenure for all. Among them, the 2005 amendment to Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (making daughters as coparceners) and implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 (provisions of mandatory joint titling) are making significant contribution[1]. A 1985 policy directed states to give joint titles to husband and wife in transfer of assets like land and house sites through Government programmes. Of late, prioritized allocation of rights to land distributed under the land grant programs, whether jointly or in the name of women, has begun to reflect an increasing share of land for women, at least in the form of joint ownership of homestead lands[2].  Reduction of stamp duty, for the lands registered in the name of women, has encouraged women’s property ownership rights in some states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi[3].

In India, almost a third of cultivators are woman, but they own less than 10.34 percent of land, operating 12.8 percent of holdings, as per Agriculture Census, 2010-11, while 75 percent of female workforce, largely marginal or landless, depends on agriculture for survival. The average size of women’s land holding is 0.93 ha, in comparison to 1.18 ha for male and 1.15 ha for all. The regional disparity with regards to women’s land rights was evident with the states in the southern region showing comparatively more number and area of land holdings operated by women while the situation in Northern and Eastern region states are demonstrating a poorer picture. In the last decade (2001-11), number (36.12 percentage) and area (23.45 percentage) of women’s holdings have increased, at a pace, higher than their population growth. (Choudhury et al , 2017)

Under Target 5a of SDGs, which addresses the rights of women to economic resources and access to ownership of land, indicators are 1(a) Proportion of total agricultural population with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land, by sex; and 1 (b) share of women among owners or rights-bearers of agricultural land, type of tenure (UNSTAT, 2016) .  This monitoring require availability of periodic and reliable gender disaggregated data across administrative layers on ‘agricultural land’ (includes land used for farming, livestock and forestry activities) and ‘agricultural population’ (people living out of farming, livestock and forestry, with land rights or without).

SDG indicator development and tracking has so far been limited to international agencies and country level practical actions are yet to begin. The availability of such potential data sources provides India, a strategic advantage to advance the monitoring around the SDG indicator on women’s land rights. The situation can also be leveraged to monitor and report women land rights indicators at state and sub-state level, providing opportunities for comparative appreciation and competition among land-administration units and departments, leading to better governance. 

Participants are asked to respond to the following questions:

  • How important are women's land rights and equitable land tenure for combating hunger, nutrition and alleviating poverty and for furthering sustainable development in India?
  • What is the evidence in India around contributions of gender-equitable land tenure to development indicators around food security, income and education, etc.?
  • Is there any evidence of negative impacts of gender-inequitable land tenure on agricultural production and food security?
  • Does gender-equitable tenure matter to Indian women in rural and urban India? What have been their perceptions of tenure security?
  • What kind of legal and institutional reforms or challenges are expediting or hindering equitable land tenure in India and in its states?
    1. Are there examples of good practices or innovations around women’s equitable land tenure rights, which can be replicated across the country?
    2. What are the specific challenges and bottlenecks for the realization of gender equitable land tenure by 2030? What policy and institutional reforms would be required to create an enabling environment? Whether policy level incentives (viz. lesser stamp duty for women) help enhancing women’s land rights?
  • What is the present status of women’s land rights in India? How is it reported? Are there administrative or other open datasets that could be used to monitor women’s land rights in India and in its states? 
  • How can India address its commitment towards reporting of SDG indicators related to women's land rights? How can the country and states progress in reporting and monitoring gender equitable land tenure governance in the context of the SDGs?
  • Are  existing datasets adequate? What kind of data is more appropriate and how it can be collected?
  • What should be the institutional mechanism for such monitoring? Who should be involved? What should be the level and frequencies of such monitoring? Will it be adequate to just report per SDG or link the information to decision making? What could be the mechanism?
  • What are the good practices? What kind of policy learning do they provide?
    How are gender differences in investment processes, participation and decision making, and benefit sharing being addressed, and to what effect?

How to join the dialogue

The dialogue is open to anyone with an interest in land issues. To make a contribution to the discussion, first register here.

Please feel free to answer as many questions as you like and then upload your contributions to the dialogue. You are welcome to make more than one contribution. Your contributions should be brief –not more than 500 words, and may be shorter. You may also query other participants and comment on their contributions.

If you have any questions on content or if you want to discuss your contribution before the dialogue start, please feel free to contact the dialogue moderator Pranab Choudhury at pranabrc@nrmc.co.

If you have question technical question on user interface etc. please contact  Neil Sorensen, Land Portal, at neil.sorensen@landportal.info.

 


[1] In southern states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra have comparatively better situation of women land rights, which may be due to their earlier amending of Hindu Succession Act 1956, which made daughters as coparceners. In these States women are allowed to inherit agricultural land, whether owned or under tenancy.

[2] An analysis of the beneficiaries of the homestead land grant schemes in Odisha by Center for land Governance, NRMC in a study in 2015, indicates a higher percentage (86 percent) of titles issued in the name of women (women only 12 percent and jointly 74 percent). Similarly, 93 percent of homestead and farmland titles distributed through the CRP program were jointly titled, and 2.5 percent were women-headed households (Choudhury et al , 2016)

[3] A study by Landesa (2013)[3] in three states reported that women have benefited significantly (one out of four women interviewed had benefited) from this incentive in Madhya Pradesh, where the state provides a 2 percent incentive for properties registered in the name of women.

Comments

Dear All,

Ensuring secure land rights to women is essential for sustainable food security, peace and consequently the reduction of poverty. Land ownership elevates a woman’s status in the family and society, expands options in the non-farm sector and ensures better old age care by children. For women who are single as a result of widowhood, desertion or divorce, land remains the critical fall back option.

India has many legislations supporting equal rights for men and women. Its constitution guarantees equality of women and men. Central and state governments have made many progressive reforms to realize the goal of secure and equitable land tenure for all. National efforts toward engendering land governance can be traced to the 1980s, primarily through Planning Commission’s recommendations to extend joint titles to women.. The 2005 amendment to Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (making daughters as coparceners) and implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 (provisions of mandatory joint titling) have also made significant contribution. Prioritized allocation of rights to land distributed under the land grant programs, whether jointly or in the name of women, reduction of stamp duty for the lands registered in the name of women, has expanded women’s property ownership rights.

 

Women‘s access to and control over land, however remains still limited. In India, almost a third of cultivator is a woman, but own (manages) less than 10.3 per cent of land (area of holdings) operating 12.8 per cent of holdings, as per Agriculture Census, 2010-11.  Women face continued discrimination in inheritance rights, as well as while accessing land through markets and redistributive reforms. Women rarely purchase land on their own because of culturally constrained gender roles and  lack of financial resources.

 

Secure and equitable land rights of women form one of the key indicators (Indicator a1 under Goal 5) of SDG. Monitoring of this indicator requires availability of periodic and reliable gender disaggregated data on ‘agricultural land’ (includes land used for farming, livestock and forestry activities) and ‘agricultural population’ (people living out of farming, livestock and forestry, with land rights or without).  Over years, India has developed institutional capacity and considerably improved data production, accessibility and availability, around land parameters. They provide seamless opportunities to monitor and improve land governance and women’s land rights.

In the context of gender-disaggregated land data, information in India are available through different databases with varied granularity, sampling intensity and periodicity, as survey (viz. India Human Development Survey 2011-12), census (population, socio-economic caste and agricultural census) and NFHS etc. Online land records maintained by states under flagship program Digital India Land Record Modernization Program (DILRMP), have also attempted recording gender-disaggregated information, with six states already started working on that.

I am happy to learn that Center for Land Governance and the WGWLO (The Working Group on Women and Land Ownership), in partnership with the land Portal are holding an online discussion on Women’s Land Rights in India in the Context of the SDGs from 30th October – 10th November 2017 (over a period of 2 weeks). The four sets of questions raised are very important to further and expand understandings of WLR in India general and in the context of SDG in particular. With participation of national and global experts I look forward to a nuanced debate, which is critical to inform the 6th Meeting of the Inter-agency and Expert Group on the SDGs Indicators, taking place during 11-13 November, 2017, in Bahrain.

Dear All,

Land rights are upheld by the state, as sovereignty of the state over land is accepted in India. Though there is no specific mention about state’s sovereignty over land in the Indian Constitution. Therefore one the first concern is, whether every policy, action and decision on land is gender just. Whether rights of women have been taken into consideration while taking any policy decision and while implementing any policy or preparing budgets, financial allocations.

Since the sustainable development goals (SDG), especially goal 15, Life on Land) has recognised land as a resource and socio-economic and political processes that need to be addressed in order to ensure land rights, we are on a platform that provides recognition to women’s land rights (WLR). Thus at global level, conceptually issues of WLR are on sound platform. Now it is important that we share our micro level/grassroots experiences and learning, especially how patriarchal structures and processes need to be addressed/altered in order to achieve WLR, with support of the state.

We invite you to join us and pitch in anywhere between micro and macro levels—anecdotes, learning, strategies, struggles, policies and what heart has to say!!!

 

Tenure security matters for all people. For women in India, as elsewhere, gender equitable tenure matters for livelihoods, shelter, and for some women, as an exit option from abusive relationships. Securing rights to land and to housing provides many women with the space they need to grow food for themselves and their children, to create and run a business, or to live free from the threat or actual experience of physical and emotional violence.

Several studies from India point to a protective quality that gender equitable land rights have in the face of intimate partner/martial gender-based violence (Panda and Agarwal, 2005; Agarwal and Panda, 2007; Gupta, 2006; Swaminathan, Ashburn, Kes, & Duvvury, 2007; Bhattacharyya, Bedi & Chhachhi, 2011). These studies suggest that when women have ownership rights to land and housing, power dynamics within households shift in their favor:  their status improves, and they are less likely to suffer from beatings and verbal abuse.  Researchers have found that owning a home is particularly important (as compared with owning land):  a house offers a ready escape or exit option in the face of intimate partner violence.

In their seminal work on this issue, Panda and Agarwal (2005) find that Indian women who hold both land and a house report far lower levels of intimate partner/marital violence (7 percent report physical violence; 16 percent report psychological violence) as compared with women who own neither a house nor land (49 percent of whom report physical violence; 84 percent report psychological violence). Women who own a house only or land only also experienced less intimate partner/marital violence.  When women owned property they also experience lower levels of dowry-related harassment.

In a follow-up study in 2007, Agarwal and Panda re-surveyed their initial respondents. Results from this follow-on survey were similar to the 2005 results:  women’s property ownership “is associated with a dramatically and unambiguously lower incidence of both physical and psychological violence” (Agarwal & Panda, 2007, p. 372) (emphasis in the original). The benefits of property ownership held even if women owned relatively more property than their husbands.

Of course, other factors matter when it comes to the likelihood of a woman experiencing intimate partner/martial violence:  a partner’s experience of alcohol or drug abuse, his employment status, and the educational attainment of the couple, along with the partners’ ages and childhood experience of witnessing gender-based violence are also extremely important. Importantly, the studies from Indian that identify a violence-reducing relationship between property ownership and intimate partner/marital gender-based violence are not designed as rigorous evaluations; they identify possible correlations and not causal connections. Nonetheless, they do provide important clues about how property can work in India to protect women from the pervasive problem of gender-based violence.

References:

Agarwal, B., & Panda, P. (2007). Toward Freedom from Domestic Violence: The Neglected Obvious. Journal of Human Development, 359-388.

Bhattacharyya, M., Bedi, A. S., & Chhachhi, A. (2011). Marital Violence and Women's Employment and Property Status: Evidence from North Indian Villages. World Development, 1676-1689.

Gupta, J. (2006). Property ownership of women as protection for domestic violence: The West Bengal Experience. Washington, DC: ICRW.

Panda, P., & Agarwal, B. (2005). Marital Violence, Human Development and Women's Property Status in India. World Development, 823-850.

Swaminathan, H., Ashburn, K., Kes, A., & Duvvury, N. (2007). Women's Property Rights, HIV and AIDS, and Domestic Violence. Washington DC: ICRW.

The SDGs has bought focus on building indicators[1] related to land access and discrimination under Goal 1 (end poverty and its forms everywhere) and Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls).

Women’s access and rights on productive resources specifically land are essential for gender-responsive implementation of Sustainable Development and for furthering their role as workers, producers and as economic agents.

Rural women work in crop production and livestock care, provide food, water and fuel for the household through hours of unseen and unrecognized work. Their role in achieving food and nutrition security for the household is far greater than men who are entitled to land and other resources as their ‘birthright’ while women are discriminated against entitlements and rights to ownership of land due to patriarchal norms, values and practices. For women, access to land and ownership has been denied across cultures and social groups owing to discriminatory inheritance laws. Notwithstanding changes to many of these laws including amendment to the Hindu Succession Act in 2005, women’s access to family agricultural land through inheritance is limited and remains just around 10 per cent of the total operational holdings.

Women’s access to land and secure tenures will increase their resilience to withstand growing climatic stress and ensure food security to the family as they are more concerned about ensuring household food security. Many tudies have shown that women prefer cultivation of food crops over cash crops as their primary concern is towards ensuring household food security.

Individual land rights are important for all women but its significance is far greater for single women. The 2011 Census indicate 71 million single women (unmarried, divorced, separated or widowed) and their number have risen by 39% over the previous decade. A piece of land in their name can help single women in rural areas to a life of dignity, with access to credit and other agricultural inputs, benefits from government programmes such as MGNREGA which provide individual livelihood assets such as cowsheds, wells and plantation (for which the beneficiary household has to have some land in own name), while landless live a life of dependence and in many cases in abject poverty.

 

[1] Indicator 1.4.2: Proportion of total adult population with secure tenure rights to land, with legally recognized documentation and who perceive their rights to land as secure, by sex and by type of tenure (disaggregated by sex and type of tenure) Indicator 5.a.1 (a) Proportion of total agricultural population with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land, by sex; and (b) share of women among owners or rights-bearers of agricultural land, by type of tenure. Indicator 5.a.2 Proportion of countries where the legal framework (including customary law) guarantees women’s equal rights to land ownership and/or control.

 

Dear Readers,

We are happy that the first day of this online discussion was very productive, with contributions coming in from India’s leading Policy Maker, Women Land Rights Network convenor, International land tenure expert as well as an academician. While the first two were introductory and welcome messages, the last two were around the 1st lead question of the discussion.

Over coming 11 days, we will be engaged with deliberations around four questions, each taking about 3 days, though overlaps will be there.The 1st set of questions explores why and how, Women Land Rights contributes  as a pathway to sustainable development.

  1. How important is women land rights and equitable land tenure for combating hunger, nutrition and alleviating poverty and for furthering sustainable development in India?
  1. What are the evidences in India around contributions of gender-equitable land tenure to development indicators around food security, income, education etc.?
  2. Is there any evidence of negative impact of gender-inequitable land tenure on agricultural production and food security?
  3. Does gender-equitable tenure matter to Indian women in rural and urban India? What have been their perceptions of tenure security?

Welcome message by Dr Tajamul Haque, Chair, Land Policy Cell of India’s Niti Ayog, was quite inspiring. With his half a decade of experience, he provided a broad overview of WLR contributions, legal-institutional initiatives to promote gender equitable land governance, status of WLR and data-availability and potential pathways to SDG-monitoring. Apart from contribution of WLR in ensuring food security, peace and consequently reduction of poverty through elevated status in family and society, he also felt that it as an important fall back option for single women. In spite of various legislations and institutional measures supporting equal rights in India, women’s access to and control over land, remains limited, he felt. Women rarely purchase land on their own because of culturally constrained gender roles and a lack of financial resources. Over years, India has developed institutional capacity and considerably improved data production, accessibility and availability, around land parameters, which he underlined as seamless opportunities to monitor and improve land governance and women land rights.

As the convenor of the Working Group on Women and Land Ownership (WGWLO), Gujarat, co-organizer of the event, Dr Varsha Ganguly welcomed participants to pitch in anywhere between micro and macro levels—anecdotes, learning, strategies, struggles, policies and what heart has to say!!! With her rich experience as a teacher to Indian administrators, an academician, researcher and an activist, she felt that women land rights should be upheld by the state, as sovereignty of the state over land is accepted in India. She highlighted the need of rights of women to be taken into consideration while taking any policy decision and while implementing any policy or preparing budgets, financial allocations. She invites to share the micro level/grassroots experiences and learning, especially how patriarchal structures and processes need to be addressed/ altered in order to achieve WLR, with support of the state.

Karol Boudreaux, globally respected for her pioneering and persistence work on land tenure and women land rights, responded to the 1st question opining that gender equitable tenure matters for livelihoods, shelter, and for some women, as an exit option from abusive relationships, in India, as elsewhere in the world. Securing rights to land and to housing provides many women with the space they need to grow food for themselves and their children, to create and run a business, or to live free from the threat or actual experience of physical and emotional violence.

As a young academician and researcher at India’s premiere Delhi University, Dr Dimple Tresa’s viewed that the SDGs has provided opportunity to re-focus and enhance WLR. Women’s access and rights on productive resources specifically land are essential for gender-responsive implementation of Sustainable Development and for furthering their role as workers, producers and as economic agents. For women, access to land and ownership has been denied across cultures and social groups owing to discriminatory inheritance laws. Notwithstanding changes to many of these laws including amendment to the Hindu Succession Act in 2005, women’s access to family agricultural land through inheritance is limited and remains just around 10 per cent of the total operational holdings.

With this exciting beginning,  we look forward to receiving more responses, insights, experiences and above all nuanced understandings of contribution of WLR to sustainable development from other experts and practitioners, from India and abroad.

 

With best regards

Pranab

It is tremendously important to conjoin these issues. Looked at as a conglomerate, there are some solutions to be had, in an efficient manner. But if kept separate, these issues will continue to vex every successful administration and organisation involved in addressing these issues.  The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) is, as the name suggests, all about conjoining tenure rights with food security, alleviation of poverty and preventing environmental degradation, the lynchpin is women’s rights to tenure, reforming custom to ensure gender equality, ensuring gendered participation in collective properties and public property management and use and enabling restitution, readjustment and allocation programmes to recognise and priorities women’s shares and rights. Every tool of land governance should be applied in a gender sensitive manner, and it should be properly implemented in case of disputes, by courts that are enlightened enough to strategically promote women’s land rights.      

 

Dear All,

My responses to the first set of questions are:

How important is women land rights and equitable land tenure for combating hunger, nutrition and alleviating poverty and for furthering sustainable development in India?

 

1. Women’s land right is crucial and there is substantive evidence that land ownership is intricately connected to hunger, deprivation and vulnerability. There is a FAO/RAP study in 2001 based on NSS data (50th round) clearly establishing the connection between land ownership and hunger and poverty. In India it is estimated that only 12.7% of land holdings are in the names of women, even as 77% women rely on agriculture as their primary source of income.

2. There is also a relationship between woman’s property rights and the control that her kin might seek to exercise over her sexual and marital choices. Prem Chowdhury writes about it extensively by highlighting customs like Karewa in Haryana.

3. Some of the main reasons for emphasizing and demanding women’s land rights is that women contribute to development but do not benefit and the Govt land distribution policies are further alienating poor from land and other natural resources.  

a. What are the evidences in India around contributions of gender-equitable land tenure to development indicators around food security, income, education etc.?

I am not sure whether there is any quantitative data from some of the major government surveys to prove the above point, as all these surveys (Census, Agri census) continue to show women mainly as non workers or at best marginal workers.

With efforts like the land records on Forest land being given jointly, women’s ability to make choices on the crops they grow, greater control over incomes derived from farms are also seen.

But there are several studies done by both NGOs and academia clearly establishing the relationship. UNDP shares the story of Basi Behen in Gujarat who is saved from being declared a witch as with a little support she is able to prove her inheritance. In Odisha in the state of Ganjam, when the government supported by ActionAid and RDA provided rural single women with patta, it immensely helped in the socio- economic empowerment of these women and their children.

b. Is there any evidence of negative impact of gender-inequitable land tenure on agricultural production and food security?

The most important evidence of gender-inequitable land tenure is on the area of violence against women. Women with no control over property are subject to increased violence, have been subject to studies by Bina Agarwal and others. With increase in urbanization and men frequently migrating there is ample evidence to show that women farmers have no access to credit, farm implements, extension services and thus are often forced to lease their land to others, including sell their agricultural land to rich farmers and even non agricultural interests.

One of the most frequent arguments against gender equitable land distribution has been that if land is distributed to women, it will get further fragmented, and women marry and go away and thus patriarchal communities in order to maintain the joint family, need to inherit and pass down property in the male line.

c. Does gender-equitable tenure matter to Indian women in rural and urban India? What have been their perceptions of tenure security?

One of the most important demands of rural women since the Bodh Gaya struggle in the state of Bihar for women’s land rights has been for gender equitable land tenure. The passage of the amended Hindu Succession Act in 2005 which gave coparcener rights to Indian women.

Among the women who are employed as per NFHS Round III, more than one in five (22 percent) are not paid at all. The likelihood of being paid in cash varies greatly by the type of occupation. Only 31 percent of women doing agricultural work are paid only in cash and another 17 percent receive cash and in-kind payments. Equitable land tenure will play an important role in women demanding and getting fair and equal wages. Data shows that with regard to employment, women are doubly disadvantaged. Not only are women much less likely than men to be employed, when employed they are only 74 percent as likely as men to earn cash. The gender differential in cash earnings is much greater for those employed in agricultural work than in non-agricultural work.

There is a popular misconception that gender-equal inheritance laws can only benefit a few women. In fact, millions of women — as widows and daughters — stand to gain. Calculations based on NSS data for all-India indicate that at least 78 per cent of rural families own some agricultural land; and if we include homestead plots, 89 per cent own land. Although most own very small fields, rights even in these can provide supplementary subsistence. (Bina Agarwal)

I have almost no experience with women’s land rights, except perhaps in the limited case of Forest Rights Act, where FRA title is recognised in the name of both the husband and wife, and single women and widows where they are head of the family. So I am not sure whether I can contribute anything of substance, at this stage of the discussion, although, this is clearly an opportunity to learn a little more about it.  While the following are general observations, I drew these specifically in the context of some discussions I have had with people working at the grassroots level, community leaders, as well as NGO workers, on issues of rights of the poor and the marginalised, including women, in remote corners of the country.

I am generally apprehensive of special legislations or govt programmes aimed at special category of citizens who are deemed vulnerable. Surely women, and men, and all other categories, ought to enjoy equal rights. If some individuals or a group are unable to enjoy equality before the law, then the problem could be either institutional, or societal. Institutional challenges lie when the law itself does not recognise equal rights, for instance, if there is discrepancy in inheritance laws, or restrictions on some category of people to own certain resources like land, etc.

Societal challenges can be rarely dealt with purely legislative or administrative measures, without a serious effort to respond to the societal issues effectively. One reason being that social dimensions inevitably colours perspective of those responsible for implementation, consequently they tend to over ride the legislative intentions during implementation on the ground. A second reason being that the vulnerable category of the population are hardly in a position to defend their rights in the midst of their community, particularly if the society around is not sensitive and supportive of those special rights. A third reason being that even where these special rights are implemented in letter and spirit by a committed local administration, this may actually make the vulnerable sections, such as destitute, single women, widows, etc, even more vulnerable. That is because endowed with new rights, and assets, the new right holder often becomes a target of others, who may want to claim those assets. Finally, such special rights legislations or administrative measures, invariably shifts the focus of the discourse away from the original nature and cause of the problem, to more immediate implementation challenges. But without a proper appreciation of the wider context, there can be little understanding of the real nature of these challenges.

For instance, dowry related laws have been greatly strengthened to protect the women. But there is little indication that these laws have been very effective in dealing with the original problem. On the other hand, these laws have given rise to growing abuse, which even the Supreme Court has had to recognise recently.

Or for instance, the now strengthened law aimed at protecting women against violence. There is little evidence so far that the law by itself has either offered greater protection to women, or that the institutional biases, or administrative efficiencies have been able to overcome the social context which is creating this kind of problem in the first place.

Similar seems to be the experience with laws against caste discrimination. Discrimination has persisted in different forms, while the special benefits aimed at helping the victims, have only perpetuated sense of victimhood, within the targeted beneficiaries, and the sense of discrimination has expanded to include many sections of the alleged perpetrators of these crimes.

Based on a limited exposure of land rights and tenure security for women in rural Bengal, some of the above discussions seem to have been borne out.

I would very much like to know more about instances of positive and negative impact of women’s land rights and secure tenure on income, food security, social acceptability, etc.

Dear All,

Here are my responses to the first set of questions:

How important is women land rights and equitable land tenure for combating hunger, nutrition and alleviating poverty and for furthering sustainable development in India? 

In my experiences of working in rural hinterlands in Odisha, Jharkhand, Gujarat, etc. I have seen women play a major role in cultivation and crop operations. However, they have negligible say on decisions such as which crop to grow, where to sell the produce, how to spend the proceeds from the sales, etc. In terms of legal ownership over agricultural land, the title is in favour of men. In my view, women have a strategic and key role towards impacting household level hunger and nutrition in the households.  

Even in case of agriculture development programs that are promoted through Women SHGs (through projects of National Rural Livelihood Mission or State Livelihood Missions), women SHGs take land on lease or rent to undertake agricultural activities. In such instances, the long term benefits from the investment on the land invariably goes to the land owner, and not to the women of the SHG, since the land goes back to the owner after the lease period.

In many livelihood projects, when women do not have ownership over land (and other immovable property), the groups either cannot benefit from bank credit and subsidy or they take up lower levels of investment, thus limiting the effect of the programme. When horticulture programmes are implemented or plantations taken up under various programmes, the land ownership status is not shifted in favour of women. 

 

a. What are the evidences in India around contributions of gender-equitable land tenure to development indicators around food security, income, education etc.? 

Land ownership (and asset ownership) is directly related to the poverty levels of households, for example a household with landed property is more likely to perform better in terms of food security and nutrition levels. 

Land allocation programmes in India do not specifically consider women as beneficiaries. There are only a few examples of programmes aimed at allotting land to women, such as the Women Support Centre in few districts of Odisha that identified single women for homestead plots.  

Major rural poverty alleviation programmes (such as MGNREGS, Skills development) hardly have any programmes designed specifically for women who do not own land, thus leaving them out of the purview of many these funded programmes. 

b. Is there any evidence of negative impact of gender-inequitable land tenure on agricultural production and food security?  

As per the Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 figures, there were 68.96 Lakh Female headed household with no adult male member between 16 and 59. The survey further indicates that 41.28% of rural female headed households are Landless households deriving major part of their income from manual casual labour. The figures for Odisha is 463731 landless out of 1074243 female headed households in the state. For most of the poorer states like, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha the percentage of landless female headed households is invariably higher that the better performing states. Similar correlation could be drawn for levels of food insecurity and nutrition status of children and women. 

c. Does gender-equitable tenure matter to Indian women in rural and urban India? What have been their perceptions of tenure security?  

In terms of power dynamics, tenure over land and other valuable property is a major determinant, both in rural and urban settings. Control over resources is determined by the legal ownership status. When women own a negligible portion of land, it affects their decision making both at household levels and public domain. With lower levels of ownership and access to property and resources, women’s participation in development programmes is not effective and empowerment goals are not achieved.

 

Interactions with rural women in villages of Odisha, Jharkhand and elsewhere, they have expressed that they do not consider themselves as equal and co-participants in the development process. Rather they think that what the men decide will be acceptable to them. Years of social conditioning has led to sense of social disempowerment among women. Wherever women have led the process and participated in the development process, the first steps have been through social mobilisation (formation of SHGs, federations and collectives) and financial independence (through entrepreneurship and income generation programmes). 

Dear Readers,

On Day 2 of the online discussion on WLR, its encouraging to receieve responses from two academicia and two development practioners. While more than two responses have agreed upon for the joint entitlements in land and property for women and men, the other sees critical aspect of conjoin rights in context with food and nutritional security of family in a household.

Dr. Chamundeeswari, a Senior Lecturer at the School of Law, and University Research Theme Champion for Global Economy at the Office of the Vice-Chancellor, University of Hertfordshire feels that unless WLR, food security and nutrition security are looked integratedly, efforts from the administration &/or organizations will not help. Poninting out importance of land rights of women for the fish farmers, forest dependent and in addition to the agricultural practitioners, she makes an important point that The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) is all about conjoining tenure rights with food security, alleviation of poverty and preventing environmental degradation, the lynchpin is women’s rights to tenure, reforming custom to ensure gender equality, ensuring gendered participation in collective properties and public property management and use and enabling restitution, readjustment and allocation programmes to recognise and priorities women’s shares and rights.

Furthering the argument of Dr. Kupuswamy, Ms. Madhumita Ray, an expert on gender rights, reiterates that women’s land rights are crucial and there is substantive evidence that land ownership is intricately connected to hunger, deprivation and vulnerability. Mentioning the FAO/RAP study she establishes the connection between land ownership, hunger and poverty. Indicating gender division of land holding in India, she says that only 12.7% of land holdings are in the names of women, even though 77% women depend on agriculture as their primary source of income.  Based on her expertise on 'Gender', she touches upon the vital aspects of WLR and sexual & mariatal choices and violence on women. In her argument of discussing importance of land tenure and the current practice of unpaid work on part of women, she says that among the women who are employed as per NFHS Round III, more than one in five (22 percent) are not paid at all. The likelihood of being paid in cash varies greatly by the type of occupation. Only 31 percent of women doing agricultural work are paid only in cash and another 17 percent receive cash and in-kind payments. Equitable land tenure will play an important role in women demanding and getting fair and equal wages. Data shows that with regard to employment, women are doubly disadvantaged. Not only are women much less likely than men to be employed, when employed they are only 74 percent as likely as men to earn cash. The gender differential in cash earnings is much greater for those employed in agricultural work than in non-agricultural work.

Being critical of the land ditribution policy and programs, Mr. Sibarata Chaudhury says that land ownership (and asset ownership) is directly related to the poverty levels of households, for example a household with landed property is more likely to perform better in terms of food security and nutrition levels but land allocation programmes in India do not specifically consider women as beneficiaries. There are only a few examples of programmes aimed at allotting land to women, such as the Women Support Centre in few districts of Odisha that identified single women for homestead plots. However, major rural poverty alleviation programmes (such as MGNREGS, Skills development) hardly have any programmes designed specifically for women who do not own land, thus leaving them out of the purview of many these funded programmes. He further adds that in terms of power dynamics, tenure over land and other valuable property is a major determinant, both in rural and urban settings. Control over resources is determined by the legal ownership status. When women own a negligible portion of land, it affects their decision making both at household levels and public domain. With lower levels of ownership and access to property and resources, women’s participation in development programmes is not effective and empowerment goals are not achieved.

Mr. Barun Mitra, founder and director of the Liberty Institute, New Delhi makes his point by saying that he is generally apprehensive of special legislations or govt programmes aimed at special category of citizens who are deemed vulnerable but surely women, and men, and all other categories, ought to enjoy equal rights. If some individuals or a group are unable to enjoy equality before the law, then the problem could be either institutional, or societal. Institutional challenges lie when the law itself does not recognise equal rights, for instance, if there is discrepancy in inheritance laws, or restrictions on some category of people to own certain resources like land. Furthering his argument, he says that the societal challenges can be rarely dealt with purely legislative or administrative measures, without a serious effort to respond to the societal issues effectively. One reason being that social dimensions inevitably colours perspective of those responsible for implementation, consequently they tend to over ride the legislative intentions during implementation on the ground. A second reason being that the vulnerable category of the population are hardly in a position to defend their rights in the midst of their community, particularly if the society around is not sensitive and supportive of those special rights. A third reason being that even where these special rights are implemented in letter and spirit by a committed local administration, this may actually make the vulnerable sections, such as destitute, single women, widows, etc, even more vulnerable. That is because endowed with new rights, and assets, the new right holder often becomes a target of others, who may want to claim those assets. Finally, such special rights legislations or administrative measures, invariably shifts the focus of the discourse away from the original nature and cause of the problem, to more immediate implementation challenges. But without a proper appreciation of the wider context, there can be little understanding of the real nature of these challenges.  And he adds that he would very much like to know more about instances of positive and negative impact of women’s land rights and secure tenure on income, food security, social acceptability, etc.

As the summarised points above indicate further appetite to learn more on the issue of Women's Land Rights, we look forward to having more responses from one and all around the globe.

Warmly,

Sejal Dave

 

 

I am thankful to the organisers for initiating this dialogue on Women Land Rights and SDGs and brining in various perspectives, challanges and issues faced by community members, practioners, academics and Governmnet officials.

Here I would like to emphasise that in many of the departments that deal with Land and land related development interventions, (a) either the programs do not consider women as specific clients, or (b) reporting does not capture information on women. Here too, there is a need for debate on what could be the indicators (both process level and impact level) when we talk about brining an equitable shift for women's ownerhip over land. 

Setting up of indicators becomes more complex when we are looking at the linkage between women land rights and nutiriton and food security. Here it becomes a multi-disciplinary subject and multiple departments come into play. 

In the case of SDG, there has been dialogue in International and National forums, but I feel there has to be much larger involvemnt of grassroots organsiations and community leaders if we aim to improve the status and contribute towards the Goals. 

Look forward to furhter insights and practionner's perspectives on these relevant issues. 

World over about 800 million people live in extreme poverty and women constitute about half the world’s population; most vulnerable in terms of impacts of poverty. Looking at women and their rights we can’t isolate land rights from right to education or health, we have to locate right rights within the rights basket and examine its impact. While SDG Goal five talks about gender equality, italso mentions that out of the 193 countries that have ratified the SGDs 1 (six goals mention regarding
land rights), Constitutions of about 143 countries guarantees equal rights for men and women. What is therefore important is to examine the factors that are governing the lack of gender equality, especially in terms of land rights of women. It’s of common knowledge that majority of women world-wide do not have ownership rights, yet they contribute most to the family land and the produce is used for the family. Then the very reason we are we looking at a situation where women need to own land is vital as ownership gives women the confidence to bargain for their rights. In many countries and even in India, women are given the user rights of land but the male relative (husband, son, father-in- law etc) owns the land. In this kind of a situation, women are vulnerable as the land on which the entire family is dependent, may get sold anytime without her consent living her without any livelihoods. However, both land and women are treated as ‘the Honour’ of the family and are to be owned. It is important to address this Patriarchal notion along with issue of generational social conditioning of women which leads to gender biases and violence against women due to land and property rights.

Experience at the field has reflected that working with women has led to many gains and there are clear instances that women who were supported and empowered to take action to claim their land and property rights have managed to get their rights. India has promulgated many land reforms laws and laws ensuring women’s rights, but in reality the
gap is at the implementation level. Land rights are legal and provide not only a sense of security among women and it gives them the confidence to voice their demands. In studies conducted among SHG members in the state of Odisha, women have expressed that they do not have a safety net due to lack of land and property rights therefore they are abused and are unable to take any steps to get out of this cycle over. Access to land also helps in women’s participation resulting in increasing their resilience to climate change and adoption of climate smart technologies. One of the great impediments is lack of awareness regarding women land rights. The government promoted women groups and federations through the National Rural Livelihoods Mission and State Rural

1 Goal 1, “end poverty in all its forms everywhere,” identifies the explicit link between poverty alleviation and access of the poor to means to strengthen land tenure security.
Goal 2, “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture,” emphasizes the importance of small-scale agricultural producers to feeding the world’s poor and vulnerable.
Goal 5, “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,” includes a sub-goal about women’s control over land.
Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries. Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.  
Goal 15: Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss. 
Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Livelihood Missions that focuses on livelihoods promotion should be the platforms for land literacy to ensure empowering women and lending them the support to demand their own rights bringing about a greater social mobilisation. In Odisha the Women and Child Development Department has a programme, Mission Shakti through which 0.31 million SHGs with 4 million members Self Help Groups are promoted. These women could be reached with information regarding land related provisions and become land literate leasing to action at various levels.

Dear All,

Here are my responses to Question 1

1. How important is women land rights and equitable land tenure for combating hunger, nutrition and alleviating poverty and for furthering sustainable development in India?

a. What are the evidences in India around contributions of gender-equitable land tenure to development indicators around food security, income, education etc.?

While the said evidences are very few, there are cases where women after getting title to a patch of land (both homestead and farm plots) have formed thrift and credit groups at the village level on their own, invested on homestead development including developing kitchen gardens and have got access government’s social and livelihood benefits and entitlements including housing. Besides, clean records with women’s name in the title deed has greatly incentivised them to invest more on their farm plots both in terms of labour and towards generating micro-capital for household farming. There are also examples where school enrolment has increased after women have got land. But what looks extremely difficult is how to attribute increased access to land as the prime mover of things happening in the village. Since in an Indian village, women now have increased access to a series of social security and economic benefits, attributing land as the sole contributor to development indicators around food security, income and education could be difficult.  

b. Is there any evidence of negative impact of gender-inequitable land tenure on agricultural production and food security?

The negative impacts are more social than economic. Women’s increased access to and control over land has largely set in a sense of equality in a family much to the displeasure of brothers or relatives causing these women to be thrown out of their houses. While land rights for women means end of a patron-client relationship between the women and their brothers or relatives, women inheriting family land only have the option to further fragment the land through a male line of descendant/son.

c. Does gender-equitable tenure matter to Indian women in rural and urban India? What have been their perceptions of tenure security?

It does matter a lot. Women now know that if they have the land in their name, it is extremely difficult for the male member in the family – be it the husband or son, to sell off without her consent. They have largely understood that with land in their names, they have a decision over land use. The perception of tenurial security is equality, power and dignity. The understanding is; a) land alienation whether by sale, mortgage or any form of transfer is difficult, b) access to institutional credit c) joint titling of land and house.

 

 

  

I thank all contributors for the discussion and the valuable inputs. I am curious to understand if we can have any inputs regarding how do we define the indicators that would ensure that we can claim that women's Land rights leads to their empowerment and subsequently improve their nutrition, education and other development parameters.  By this I mean SDG indicators are set at a higher level, but how do we define indicators at the local level and capture data and evidences to substantiate our claim.

Looking forward to sharing of research outcomes and field experiences establishing the link between Women Land Rights and Nutrition Security.

 

It is very important for women to have tenure security. It just transforms the livelihoods and economic security in a much more sustainable way in rural Indian families. Women have a completely different perspective and way of dealing with the livelihood concerns from men. When women are just dependent on their male counterparts for their livelihoods-- and land being the main source of livelihoods-- then obviously a good part of the family is depended on one person and that is not sustainable.

 

When women become equal partners, with equity they can leverage more out of the land. I also think there are examples where women have been better managers of land. There are examples that when women have managed land it has been more productive for families and especially for children, in terms of education, health and economy of the house. Women take control and all these indicators have shown to be improving in the families. That is for the betterment of the family and it becomes important with ripple effect it impacts the societies in a large scale which is also good for the society.

 

As per the report of the sub group on Economic Empowerment of Women with focus on Land Rights, Property Rights and Inheritance Laws under Steering Committee on 'Women's Agency and Child Rights' for the Twelfth Five Year Plan - 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% of all male workers are in agriculture as against 75% of all female workers, and this gap is rising. Further, an estimated 20 percent of rural households in India 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 India’s patriarchal society. Asset ownership and control patterns suggest men more likely to inherit, own, control and manage larger areas of land, cattle and more valuable animals compared to women. Women's activities are limited to small household plots and smaller animals such as goats and poultry.  It has been estimated that in India, landownership in favour of women[i] is not more than 9.3 %[ii]. 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.

The recent World Development Report (2012): Gender Equality and Development[iii] emphasizes that closing the gender gaps would lead to enhanced productivity, improved development outcomes for next generation and enhanced representativeness of the institutions.

In addition to improved productivity, the clinching argument in favour of land titles to women is the stability and security it provides, the protection it affords from marital violence,  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.

Women are keen for their independent rights to land. Women’s aspirations and men’s compliance with such aspirations are reflected in a meeting with 50 women and 20 men in a village in Maharashtra “when the land is in my husband’s name, I’m only a worker. When it is in my name, I have some position in society and my children and my husband respect me so my responsibility is much greater to my own land and I take care of my fields like my children” (Kelkar 2011)

 

 

[i] Recent state-level studies (Karantaka 2011, West Bengal 2009 and The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-2011) point out 10-12 percent women's ownership of land

 

[ii] Indian National Sample Survey, 61st Round Schedule 10, 2004-05, Agricultural Census 2005/2006, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India

 

[iii] Gender Equality and Development , World Development Report, 2012 The World Bank

 

Land is not only an economic power but social and political empowerment also comes with land ownership. Ownership of land is an identity in itself and gender biases are actually based on power relations. Secured land ownership gives woman an identity of her own and it gives a multidimensional power and empowerment therefore, I think land ownership empowers women absolutely. There have been numerous micro studies at ground level which supports the fact that women’s empowerment does take place with land rights and it increases overall welfare of the family. The woman not only benefits individually, her family benefits collectively, because land ownership gives her income and that income in the hand of the woman of the house enhances overall well-being of the family, both children and the old members of the family benefit. The health and education of children certainly rises with women’s empowerment in the family which comes from land rights.

Women land rights and equitable land tenure, as various studies from the worldwide suggested, have significant positive correlation with the reduction in the hunger, nutrition and poverty through increased productivity, more investment on developmental issues like health and education of the children at the household level, and more thrust on the nutritious food cultivation and consumption. Most researchers suggested that the women's secure land ownership would increase her access to other agriculture productive inputs like seed, credit, technology, and information and will increase the women's farm productivity. FAO's study linking women's equitable land tenure, agriculture productivity and reduction in the malnutrition level have been one of the most extensively used research. Besides, several studies conducted in Africa, specifically in Ethiopia, Ghana, suggested that increased secure land ownership of women significantly contribute towards increased agricultural productivity and food security. Most studies that have tried to directly measure the impact of gender inequalities on agricultural efficiency come from Sub-Saharan Africa. These studies find that total efficiency would be improved if resources were allocated more equitably across men and women’s plots (e.g. Udry 1996; Saito 1994). Further, women’s plots have smaller yields than men’s plots, but if differences in agricultural inputs are controlled for the differences disappear. For example, Udry (1996) finds that the average household output of crops would increase by 6 percent in Burkina Faso if fertilizer and other inputs were distributed more evenly across individual household members’ plots. However, there is only very limited evidence from South Asia, specifically India, to support this notion.  In Kerala, Kumar(1978 as cited in Agarwal 2002) found that women’s home gardens were associated with better child nutrition. This, certainly, indicates that homestead in the name of women would able to increase the higher probability of the kitchen gardening at the household and increased consumption of nutritious food. 

Similarly, various anthropological studies conducted in many parts of the world from the sub-Saharan Africa to South America, suggests that there is a higher probability that the income comes from the women would be spent on children's health, education and nutrition while men tend to spend more income on his personal luxury. After the Bodhgaya land movement in India, small agricultural loans were made available to those who had received land. Women used the loans to buy bullocks, while many men wanted to spend it on alcohol (Alaka and Chetna 1987).  A study conducted in Nepal found a strong statistically significant positive correlation between women land ownership and children's education. However, In India number of primary research studies exploring the linkage between the women's equitable land tenure and increased agriculture productivity, reduction in the malnutrition level is required to give a push to the women land ownership policy advocacy. In addition, empirical evidence would also be required, in India, to establish through the women's contribution to the food production sector. According to agriculture census 2010-11, in most of the states, a number of men cultivators and agriculture laborers supersedes the number of women cultivators and agriculture laborers, and the statistics of cultivators and agriculture labourers do not represent the amount of the work done by the men and women in the agriculture sector.

More than 500 women from 22 states attended the regional and national consultations organised by UN Women, MAKAAM and NCW who shared that equitable land tenure is essential for them for increased access to different agriculture inputs, government subsidies, programmes, and training. Some of the benefits of the secure land ownership shared by the women farmers were-

Increased access to agriculture inputs increases their agriculture productivity and reduces their dependence on their spouses. In the context of increased rural migration and feminisation of agriculture, access to productive input on time is non-negotiable for women farmers that effect, substantially, their farm productivity.

Land ownership provides social recognition and increases their decision making capacity not only in the private sphere but also in the public sphere including Panchayats. Increased participation in the public meeting would build their negotiation powers in the government agriculture and land development programme designing and implementation, and in other processes like land acquisition, resettlement, and rehabilitation process. 

In the context of rural distress and increasing farmer suicides, secure land tenure is quite important for a woman as that provide her source of livelihood and income generation after the death of her husband, and also protect her from other social evils like trafficking.

Some of the other observations about women's perception of the gender- equitable land tenure are-

Most married women prefer to claim their right on marital land rather than on the parental land as they contribute significantly for the development of and production from the marital land.

According to many women farmers attended the regional consultations, right over the marital land should be automatically transferred to women at the marriage and the rights should not be depended on the interest and whims of the family, relatives or the religious heads. Women complained of forceful eviction from the marital house after the death of the husband and depended on the in-laws wish to get the land for them and their children. Many Muslim women in the Eastern regional consultation in Bihar shared that they depended on religious leaders' decision to get their rights on the property granted by shariat.

Land tenure security, as suggested by women, should make their consent compulsory during the land selling to increase their decision making and ownership over the land. Further, the required consent process should be legal as many women forced to release their land claim under social and family pressure.

 

Dialogue in the  3rd day, witnessed enhanced participation with six discussants placing their comments on question 1, while another two made repeat comments, making eight interventions. The participants included retired senior-most land administrator, national journalist, UN staff, vice-chancellor of a women university and experienced researchers and practitioners.

Ms Vandana Jena, Ex-Secretary, India’s Central Land Department, highighted that the farm productivity is now increasingly with women in India, quoting the report of the sub group on “Economic Empowerment of Women with focus on Land Rights, Property Rights and Inheritance Laws” for the Twelfth Five Year Plan. More women are managing land with  increasing male out-migration along with one fifth additinonally being female headed households. However, limited ownership land (and other assets such as house, livestock, and so on) remains severe impediment to efficiency in agriculture for women cultivators, as it restricts access to credit, entitlement 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. Closing the gender gaps would lead to enhanced productivity, improved development outcomes for next generation and enhanced representativeness of the institutions. Land titles to women ensures them stability and security, protection from marital violence,  the bargaining power in household decision making and in the labour market for wages.

Prof Padmaja Mishra a reputed economist and Vice Chancellor, Rama Devi University from India, felt that as gender biases are actually based on power relations, secured land ownership gives woman an identity while also empowers her absolutely. Numerous studies at ground level have established the fact that women’s empowerment does take place with land rights and it increases overall welfare of the family. The health and education of children certainly rises with women’s empowerment in the family which comes from land rights.

Mr. Kumar Sambhav, a young investigative journalist, who runs LandConflictWatch, said that tenure security of women transforms the livelihoods and economic security in a much more sustainable way in rural Indian families. Women have been better managers of land. There are examples that when women have managed land it has been more productive for families and especially for children, in terms of education, health and economy of the house.

As per Ms Sabita Parida of UNWomen, Women land rights and equitable land tenure, global studies indicate, have significant positive correlation with the reduction in the hunger, nutrition and poverty through increased productivity, more investment on developmental issues like health and education of the children at the household level, and more thrust on the nutritious food cultivation and consumption. Equitable land tenure is essential for them for increased access to different agriculture inputs, government subsidies, programmes, and training. In India number of primary research studies exploring the linkage between the women's equitable land tenure and increased agriculture productivity, reduction in the malnutrition level is required to give a push to the women land ownership policy advocacy.

A researcher and practitioner Sonali Mohapatra stressed on the important factors around patriarchy and social conditioning. Majority of women  do not have ownership rights, yet they contribute most to the family land and the produce is used for the family. Women need to own land, however, both land and women are treated as ‘the Honour’ of the family and are to be owned. Field experiences reflect that even without education women have strong leadership potential and there are clear instances that women who were supported and empowered to take action to claim their land and property rights have managed to get their rights. Access to land also helps in women’s participation resulting in increasing their resilience to climate change and adoption of climate smart technologies. Lack of awareness is a key bottleneck in women land rights. Experience shows that land literacy empowers women and lending them the support to demand their own rights can bring about a greater social mobilisation.

Mr Sanjoy Patnaik, an eminent researcher and practitioner with over two decades of experience on issues of land rights said that while evidences are very few, there are cases where women after getting title to a patch of land (both homestead and farm plots) have been able to better access entitlements and further their development. Women invested on homestead development including developing kitchen gardens and have got access government’s social and livelihood benefits and entitlements including housing. But what looks extremely difficult is how to attribute increased access to land as the prime mover of things happening in the village. Land rights leads to negative social than economic impacts as women’s increased access to and control over land largely sets in a sense of equality in a family much to the displeasure of male relatives leading to violence against women. However, gender-equitable tenure does matter a lot. Women know that if land is in their names, it can’t be sold without her consent.

Many of the departments that deal with land and land related development interventions, Mr Sibabrata Choudhury in his repeat response felt, do not consider women as specific clients, or  do not report gender-disaggregated information. There is a need for debate on what could be the indicators (both process level and impact level) when we talk about bringing an equitable shift for women's ownerhip over land.  Setting up of indicators becomes more complex when we are looking at the linkage between women land rights and nutiriton and food security. Here it becomes a multi-disciplinary subject and multiple departments come into play. A much larger involvement of grassroots organsiations and community leaders are critical if we aim to improve the status and contribute towards the UN SDGs.

Ms Sonali Mohapatra underlined, in her second intervention, the need to define the indicators that would ensure woman’s land rights leading to their empowerment and subsequently improving their nutrition, education and other development parameters.  SDG indicators are set at a higher level, but it remains critical, how do we define indicators at the local level and capture data and evidences to substantiate our claim.

2. What kind of legal and institutional reforms or challenges are expediting or hindering equitable land tenure in India and in its states?

a. Are there examples of good practices or innovations around women’s equitable land tenure rights, which can be replicated across the country?

Legal and institutional reforms have often been criticized for hindering equitable land tenure not because the reforms are irrelevant in themselves, but because the contention between the formal and informal institutions persist despite the changes in law.

The journey to realizing equitable land tenure is often not a straight one. For many countries such as Sweden, it took over 100 years for equitable land tenure to be realized. The push factors for this was the need to increase taxation to facilitate the war, the anchoring of gender equality as a determinant factor for political parties election into office has further consolidated and enhanced gender equality.

Perhaps that is an example from an advanced economy. There are good examples from Africa where equitable land tenure has been realized.

Namibia – Not always individualization but gender equality can be realized within collective/group rights

Approximately half of Namibia’s population and 38% of its territory is held under customary tenure and controlled by Traditional Authorities located mostly in the north of the country. Of the rest, 44% is held as freehold (including large commercial farms and urban land), and 17% is designated national park. Customary land is derived from land regarded as tribal land at the time of independence in 1990.  Within urban areas land is administered by local authorities that function under the control of the Ministry of Regional & Local Government (MRLG), and the Ministry of Housing & Rural Development (MHRD). Responsibilities are listed in the Local Authorities Act 23 of 1992, and its amendments, and the Sectional Titles Act 2 of 2009. Private land is held in freehold title, with all titles registered in the Deeds Registry of the Ministry of Land Reform (MLR). In freehold rural areas (large commercial farms), land titles are likewise registered in the MLR’s Deeds Registry and all rights to land are administered by the MLR in terms of the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act 6 of 1995.

Historically, communal land rights were under the control of Chiefs and Traditional Authorities (TA) who allocated these rights based on their traditional tenure system and were assigned orally and handed down by memory. Land was not assigned in any standardized or systematic manner resulting in wide variations in practice across the TA. Also there were many disputes owing to lack of clarity on boundaries; land rights over the same area being assigned to different people; not all people were necessarily treated in the same manner; wide variation in size of parcels claimed and the interests of women, dependents and vulnerable groups were not always respected. In some cases fences were allowed, in others not. As a result there developed a lack of trust in the customary system of land tenure. Starting in 1995, the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement (MLR) began drafting the Communal Land Reform Bill in order to regulate the management and administration of communal land. This bill was enacted in August 2002 as the Communal Land Reform Act and became   operational on 1 March 2003 and set out the basis for the registration of communal land rights and leases. Customary land rights allow an applicant to hold the right to a residential unit and a farming unit essentially for domestic/household purposes. The leasehold is issued for a commercial activity (the use right is defined on the certificate). The Act defined who could apply for a communal land right and set out the process by which the right(s) would be assigned. A key provision was to provide for the registration of all existing communal land rights, and also to provide a mechanism for the registration arising from new applications. The responsibility for the establishment of the rights is vested with the 12 Communal Land Boards (CLB), who can approve applications endorsed by the TA. In certain cases (e.g. claims over a certain size) Ministry approval is required. Initially the registration process was slow, and it is estimated that by 2012, only some 20% of existing CLR had been registered and fewer than 500 leases issued.

Projects funded by TgZ, MCC and other donors have sought to accelerate the programme of issuing customary land rights for several reasons

Ensuring people understand and are aware of their land rights and that they claim them

It is seen as an effective way of supporting women’s empowerment and ensuring that women (and others) understand and are able to exercise that right

Reducing land disputes

Reduced conflicts between pastoralist communities and identification and policing of the commons.

Clarification over land use and encouragement of leasing / group rights registration

 

Ove the period 2012-2016, large scale programmes were initiated that aimed to carry out communal land registration across the 12 TA. By December 2015, More than 67,000 communal land rights were registered, out of an expected total of 250,000. The programme has involved a very extensive outreach and engagement programme at the village community level to ensure that people fully understood and are willing to engage. Teams of para-surveyors and community liaison officers have followed the “focused approach” (see diagram) which has integrated the community outreach, surveying and adjudication, approval and follow up activities.

 

Although gender inequalities still exist, this program realized high success in ensuring women’s rights to land were captured and registered.

 

Botswana – Individualization is possible and women can actually acquire rights equal to those of men. T

The results emerging from Botswana reveal that this equality in land holding emerges from the change in mid set towards gender roles in land ownership. Perhaps the answers do not only lie in legal reforms… Perhaps the answer can be found in change of attitude towards gender equality, where the legal reforms are in sync with societal demands and desires and the contestation disappears.

b. What are the specific challenges and bottlenecks for the realization of gender equitable land tenure by 2030?

1. The thriving of informal systems (often unwritten – socially shared rules of conduct (that are created, communicated, and enforced outside of officially sanctioned channels) alongside the formal institutions (the rules and procedures that are created, communicated, and enforced through official channels) is a key bottleneck to the realization of gender equitable tenure. The persistence of informal institutions is not found in only the local communities, it is handed down and deeply ingrained in the minds of judges, land professionals, legislators and implementers at various levels. The need to interrogate this beliefs and truly create a space for gender equality where the legal regime can function with no interference of the subtle informal systems will see this change happen.

What policy and institutional reforms would be required to create an enabling environment?

It is important to interrogate the reason as to why the laws and policies are formulated. These intentions are nuanced but have long term impacts on the outcomes. For example is the intention to create:

Gender-neutral land law or policy? – i.e where the legal or policy approaches use the knowledge of gender differences in a given context to target and meet the practical needs of both women and men and thus not disturb the existing gender relations.

Gender-specific law or policy? Thus where laws or policies use the knowledge of gender differences in a given situation to respond to the practical gender needs of either women or men. These laws and policies do not address the existing division of resources and responsibilities and thus are unlikely to create equitable outcomes in terms of land tenure.

Gender-redistributive law and policy: thus policies and laws aim to transform the existing distribution of resources and responsibilities in order to create a more equal relationship between women and men.

This is critical if change is to happen.

However, more than policy reforms, the solutions could lie in attitude change which can happen through variety of approaches such as reforming how the land administration systems function. Are they gendered in nature and therefore warranting the expectation of a gendered outcome. An example here could be revisiting the land forms and the capture of data, how community education happens, the gender responsiveness of both administrative and juridical disputes.e.t.c

Whether policy level incentives (viz. lesser stamp duty for women) help enhancing women’s land rights?

In the Case of Sweden, the Incentive for the reduction of taxes for house renovations where the properties are jointly owned has seen a continued rise in joint registration of properties by spouses. This has been a positive unintended consequence of an incentive.

In other jurisdictions where randomized control trials have been implemented by the World Bank in Africa, it is difficult to say if there has been a significant change in enhancing women’s land rights.

The answers for the most part lie in awareness of the importance of joint registration and what benefits lie in this.

 

 

Constraints  

The overall policy environment around land is certainly not in favour of equitable ownership or for that matter access. Although this is not the place for those larger discussions on land acquisition and land use policies, it is important to recognise that they do have a lot of negative implications for land for the poor in general. This inevitably means that women’s access in every social group is compromised. For example, in Maharashtra the struggle for regularisation of encroached gairan lands has reached a dead end. Dalits are being dispossessed from these lands which are now being increasingly handed over to either government departments or to private companies on long leases. This requires a different level of attention from social movements and the state. However, as groups committed to equitable access we should register our discontent over such policies that lead to dispossession of the poor across social groups.

FRA implementation has been weak overall. But dismal as far as enlisting of women’s names are concerned.

State surplus lands redistributed have also not performed well in terms of including women as joint owners or individual owners.

So, regarding state distributed lands, there is a need to put forth a demand that all such data be in the public domain and should be available as gender disaggregated data. This will give us a fair view into what needs to be done to improve the joint ownership or individual ownership for women.

If we come on to the private property domain we find that implementation of succession laws in favour of women has been very poor. We do not have firstly gender disaggregated data on land. Secondly, we do not have data on release deeds made by women in favour of men. This should be shared on the land portals. We have recently made an RTI in one district of Maharashtra and are yet to receive any response. Our interactions with women’s groups in Maharashtra clearly tells us that implementation of HSAA in favour of women is not occurring. Addressing issues of domestic violence will indeed be incomplete without understanding the domain of private property rights for women.

Recommendation in case of better implementation of HSAA calls for very strong state support mechanisms from the macro to the micro level. Gender resource centres at the taluka level where legal and other supports are provided for women who are being dispossessed of their land rights is necessary if change has to occur.

There is also a legal amendment which is needed whereby martial property is registered in the name of the wife at marriage. This will support women in distress in several ways.

If we look at the stamp duty issue- yes incentivising through reduced stamp duties can be and should be done. However, the suggestion here is that such concessions should be made applicable only in cases where transactions are done by men in favour of women. Maharashtra’s significant concession (Rs 200/0nly) for all land transactions within defined familial relations can also work against women. It should be clearly stated as follows- when land is being gifted/partitioned by a male (brother husband, father etc) to a ‘women only’ then will concessions apply.

Importantly there is need for a punitive or a disincentive measure required for release deeds that happen very routinely. Often sisters are seen to release their rights over land in favour of their brothers. There has to be a way in which this is not encouraged. We need to collectively think of doable measures in this regard.

Positive experiences

There have been some positive learnings as well- In Maharashtra for example under CFR in some areas women’s names have been listed as co-owners

A notification in the tenancy law with regards to homestead plots now makes it possible to get the tenant homesteads registered in the name of women only or in joint names.

Kudumbashree’s positive experiences also need to be studied carefully with reference to land leasing. although several things need to be modified for a more secure lease tenure, several states could try to emulate the model. More details on this discussed in a case story on Kudumbashree collective farming http://vikalpsangam.org/article/vs-case-studies/#.WJsAE_JlsfL

MAKAAM recently held a national level consultation on women farmers and three important notes were shared at the consultation. These are available on the makaam website (www.makaam.in ) they outline the key issues and the demands made. Importantly they also highlight the need to go beyond land ownership or access and stress that recognition of women as farmers should be done irrespective of landholding. It should be done on the basis of their participation in agriculture and allied activities to also include agriculture labour. Census data clearly shows that more than 70% women are engaged in agriculture and therefore qualify to be recognised as farmers and thus avail of several benefits that are accrued to farmers.

2. What kind of legal and institutional reforms or challenges are expediting or hindering equitable land tenure in India and in its states?

a. Are there examples of good practices or innovations around women’s equitable land tenure rights, which can be replicated across the country?


b. What are the specific challenges and bottlenecks for the realization of gender equitable land tenure by 2030? What policy and institutional reforms would be required to create an enabling environment? Whether policy level incentives (viz. lesser stamp duty for women) help enhancing women’s land rights?

 

Although, largest chunk of the Indian land is private land, 86 percent to be precise, and right over the private land comes through inheritance, land market or gift, majority of the most vulnerable section of the community, including Dalits, tribal and female headed households comprise the largest proportion of the landless population. Access to and control over the land, for the landless population, comes through the state government's public distribution of land programme or land leasing.

 

Many of the state governments, after the 1998 government's order to distribute all public land in joint name, initiated land distribution programmes like "Abhiyan Basera", "Vasundhara" to give land to the landless population in the joint names. (see: bottlenecks and solutions)

 

State public land distribution schemes are quite advantageous programmatic initiatives for ensuring equitable land tenures for the women of the landless community, however, more effort and innovations are required to strengthen the programmes and increase its' outreach to the rightful claimants. For instance, after implementing Vasundhara for years, Government of Odisha had to initiate other scheme called "Mo Jami, Mo Dhia" (My Agriculture land, My Homestead) to identify the distributed land and ensure that the original claimant receive the distributed land.

 

Similarly, Government of Bihar had to introduce another initiative to identify the distributed plots on the ground and give the claims to the rightful owners. According to Bihar government, more than 3 lakh landless people have received the land under this programme till now; the state further initiated specific schemes to target Mahadalits, most marginalised group of Bihar.

 

Good Practices: There are many policy and programmatic initiatives taken by many states to increase women's equitable land tenure rights, some of them can be replicated across the country with minimum changes considering the contextual factors while some initiatives need more assessment to understand its impact, sustainability and replicability.

 

In the case of implementation of Hindu Succession Amendment Act, single women support centers piloted and promoted by Government of Odisha with support of Landesa can be accepted as an innovative model providing legal assistance and facilitating access to ensure equitable land tenures for single women, one of the most vulnerable section of the community.

 

Policy level initiatives like lesser stamp duty for women, no registration or mutation charges when husband wants to share his parental land with his wife found to be beneficial for increasing women's secure land rights. In Uttar Pradesh, many women farmers of the Aaroh campaign, during the regional consultations, shared that the less stamp duty argument has been used by many women farmers to register the newly purchased land either in their name or in the name of their daughters/ daughter-in-laws. However, in some cases it was also found that due to the less stamp duty, although, family prefer to purchase the land in the name of the women, they are ill-informed about their land ownership and their rights. Further exploration, using the data from the states where it is being implemented recently like Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, would also be essential to understand that -

What is the land size, after the implementation of the incentive policy, is usually being purchased in the name of women? What is the trend- is there any increase in the land purchase in the name of women?

Who has the higher probability to be influenced by this incentive policy- large landlords or poor small and marginal landholders?

Would the policy initiative work for certain land acreage- for instance, higher the land size, higher the price incentive?

 

The Kudumbashree programme of the Kerala state government is a beautiful example of the innovation which despite state declaring tenancy illegal not only enabled the landless women community's access to the land ownership but also created convergence to ensure their access to other supports and services to increases their productivity and realise economic empowerment. Convergence between different government departments and active involvement of the Panchayat helped the women farmers to lease out the land for the cultivation purpose. Although, one might argue that leasing would not ensure equitable land tenures and secure land ownership, however, certainly it is essential to ensure poor landless women population's secure access to land whose economic condition wouldn't make it possible for them to purchase the land from the markets.

 

 

Bottlenecks and Solutions: Recent consultations held by UN Womem have thrown up some important, interesting facts.

Single women farmers shared their concerns about lack of access to information and lack of understanding on legal processes limiting their access to equitable land rights.

Many are also facing problems in claiming the land they received from the government under various state public land distribution programmes like Bihar's "Abhiyan Basera" or Odisha government's "Vasundhara" programme.

 

Solutions: The legal aid and handholding support in the land application support provided by the women support center would be beneficial for women, specifically single women to claim their rights over land.

 

 

Suggestions: Suggestions proposed by women farmers, during interviews, to improve the public land distribution schemes are-

Instead of joint names, the land should be allocated in single names. If the land is distributed in the joint name, it should be partitionable.

Information on the available public land should be easily accessible to the public to facilitate the claim process.  

Allocated land amount should not be less than 10 decimals. Land allocation under the state public land distribution scheme in Odisha is 10 decimals that not only provide space for house construction, but also leaves enough land for kitchen gardens which could ensure food security and nutrition security of the women and other family members.

 

 

Dear All,

My response to Q1

Need to collect evidence of impact of incentives related to asset ownership (for eg reduction of stamp duty, amendment of HAS) on the empowerment of women- what are the facilitating factors? what are still the socio cultural norms which stand as barrier ?

Need to understand the implications when traditional and customary ownership of land is brought under administrative and legal norms- where do the women stand

Fourth day’s deliberation shifts to 2nd sets of questions framed around legal and institutional framework around WLR. Three discussants intervened comprising of an international expert, a researcher-activist and a young gender-expert.

Esther Obaikol of Uganda Land Alliance, lead the discussion by highlighting the global scenario with blending examples from Europe and Africa. Legal and institutional reforms have often been criticized for hindering equitable land tenure, she felt, not because of the fact that reforms are irrelevant in themselves, but because the contention between the formal and informal institutions persist despite the changes in law.  Starting with example of Sweden, which took over 100 years to realize equitable land tenure, she goes on to describe the good practices from Africa: Namibia and Botswana. In the Case of Sweden, the incentive for the reduction of taxes for house renovations for jointly owned property lead to continued rise in joint registration by spouses. Namibia relied on an approach to realize gender equality within collective/group rights, avoiding individualization route, adapting to local customary systems prevalent over 1/3rd of its territory. As part of communal land registration, in a project funded by TgZ, MCC and other donors helped acceleration of issuing customary land rights with one of the focus area on supporting women’s empowerment and ensuring that women (and others) understand and are able to exercise that right. Although gender inequalities still exist, this program realized high success in ensuring women’s rights to land were captured and registered. In Botswana, however, individualization was possible and women could actually acquire rights equal to those of men.  She attributed this to change in mind set towards gender roles in land ownership, concluding that the answers probably do not only lie in legal reforms. She underlined that the thriving of informal systems alongside the formal institutions is a key bottleneck to the realization of gender equitable tenure. On reforms, she felt, it is important to interrogate the reasons as to why the laws and policies are formulated, to ensure long-term impacts.

Seema Kulkarni of SOPPECOM/MAKAAM felt that the overall land policy environment was not in favour of equitable ownership or for access. Existing land acquisition and land use policies do have a lot of negative implications for land for the poor in general. This inevitably means that women’s access in every social group is compromised. Citing the example in Maharashtra on the struggle for regularization of encroached gairan lands where dalits are being dispossessed, she called the groups committed to equitable access to register discontent. In FRA implementation and distribution of state surplus lands, , she felt that recording of WLR has been dismal. In private property domain, implementation of succession laws in favour of women has also been very poor. Interactions with women’s groups in Maharashtra clearly indicate poor implementation of HSAA in favour of women. Better implementation of HSAA calls for very strong state support mechanisms with provision of Gender resource centers at the taluka level to provide legal and other supports. She wanted an amendment to help martial property registered in the name of the wife at marriage.  While reduced stamp duty for registration of property in the name of women is welcome, it would be more effective if it is made applicable to ‘women only’ cases. Importantly there is need for a punitive or a disincentive measure required for release deeds that happen very routinely, where sisters are seen to release their rights over land in favour of their brothers.  Gender disaggregated data are also not available on these provisions including no data on release deeds made by women in favour of men. She also went on to add some positive learning around WLR citing examples of recording of women names in CFR in Maharashtra, registration of tenant homesteads in the name of women only or in joint names, women group leasing in Kudumbashree. In the end, she shared the highlights of recent national consultation on women farmers organized by MAKAAM (www.makaam.in). It calls for the need to go beyond land ownership or access and stress that recognition of women, as farmers should be done irrespective of landholding.

 

Savvy Somya Mishra from OXFAM says women land ownership, either comes from inheritance laws applicable to private lands (86% of land excl. forests) or through joint titling in the distrbution of Government lands in India. While public land distribution schemes are quite advantageous for ensuring equitable land tenures esp. for the landless community, they need to be strengthened and their outeach to the rightful claimants, must be ensured. After implementing Vasundhara for years, Government of Odisha had to initiate another scheme called "Mo Jami, Mo Diha" to ensure that the original claimant receive the distributed land. Similarly, Government of Bihar had to introduce another initiative to identify the distributed plots on the ground and give the claims to the rightful owners.   Single women support centers piloted and promoted by Government of Odisha with support of Landesa was an innovative model providing legal assistance and facilitating access to ensure equitable land tenures. Policy level initiatives like lesser stamp duty for women, no registration or mutation charges when husband wants to share his parental land with his wife found to be beneficial for increasing women's secure land rights. In Uttar Pradesh, women farmers of the Aaroh campaign, felt that the less stamp duty argument has been used by many women farmers to register the newly purchased land either in their name or in the name of their daughters/ daughter-in-laws. However, in some cases family purchases the land in the name of the women to avail the concession without informing them properly.   She felt there is need of further investigation of these schemes in terms of their impact on parcel size and number of land registraton in the name of women,  type of land owners (big/small) getting influenced  etc.

Question # 2. What kind of legal and institutional reforms or challenges are expediting or hindering equitable land tenure in India and in its states? 

Poor coordination between departments

Oppressive monitoring of social workers and NGO members in relation to indigenous and Adivasi areas.

Lack of data on implementation efforts related to

More focus needed on mainstreaming gender into land governance, including land administration within government departments.   

 

Good practice : as a consequence of the Odisha state Policy for Girls and Women 2014, there has been reduction in stamp duty - Vide Gazette notification dt 29.11.2016 of Dept of Revenue and DM, 1% reduction in stamp duty on sale and gift deed executed in favour of women in respect of land and house i.e.  4% will be charged instead of 5%.

The impact of this good practice has to be documented for scalability and replicability ( as stated in Q 1)

Some other action points as per the Odisha state Policy for Girls and Women 2014

Extend land lease at nominal rates in favour of women’s groups for productive activities. Allot cultivable/arable Government land on temporary lease basis to women SHGs for agriculture and horticulture purposes.

Allot Ac. 0.04 decimal of homestead land in rural areas to women belonging to low income group and not possessing any house/ flat or homestead land and who are either (i) widowed, unmarried, divorced or separated from husband by a decree or order of a Court or under any custom or usage having the force of law, having attained 45 years of age or more, or (ii) women with more than 40 percent disability, who have attained 30 years of age or more.

 

In India, as in most of the developing countries, during the past few decades there have been quite a few legislation and directives by Government to increase the chances of women getting land. For example, the Hindu Succession Amendment Act, 2005 improved the scope for women to exercise their rights over paternal property. This amendment is treated as a great step towards recognising the rights of women, especially amidst the prevailing patriarchal society and norms. 

In the state of Odisha, the Government in 2002, passed an order to allot at least 40% of land in Government land allocation programmes to widows, unmarried women, victimized women and women living below poverty line. As early as 1987, a Government circular states that land title should be given both in the name of husband and wife, which has been a continued practice ever since. More recently, in 2014, Government of Odisha has come up with a State Policy on Girls and Women that has a specific section on Asset Ownership for Women.  

The point I would like to emphasis here is, there have been legislations and Government orders for a more equitable land ownership for women. Still, the situation has not improved much in terms of women ownership over land and levels of women empowerment. I would attribute the reasons to a lack of proper orientation of the implementing staff and awareness at the community level. Moreover there hasn’t been adequate institutional support mechanisms in place to actualise these changed legislations. 

From my experience of interacting with Government officials and grassroots functionaries in Odisha, Jharkhand and Bihar I have seen there is a strong gap in understanding about gender issues and a bias among officials for women owning land. This is the first barrier.

When we talk about bringing a change towards an equitable scenario, there has to be adequate safeguards and conducive environment for such change. Simple changes, such as a “Women’s Help Desk” in the land administration office could be a welcome step for women to access the office. This centre could extend support services to women seeking solutions for their problems related to land. The centre should serve as a one stop solution that maintains a database of women land ownership and coverage in various land allocation programmes. 

Another challenge lies within the community, because of prevailing traditions and age old practices, women have been systematically excluded from owning land and property. Only a title or name in the land title does not mean full ownership. There has to be adequate understanding among the community members – both men and village leaders – to support the process. In some locations in Odisha, I have experienced this when we worked closely with women SHG federations and facilitated them to demand for their rights over land. 

In conclusion, the barriers are at three levels (legal, institutional and community) and efforts should be towards addressing them and coming up with innovative approaches do to deal with them

Look forward to more learning and global good practices.

To some extent the legal and institutional reforms are supportive and but in the current scenario it is hindering to a greater extent. It is so because I think the tradition of Patriarchy which still persists and results in lack of absolute empowerment of women at ground level. These in reality are the two major challenges and bottlenecks in Gender equitable land tenure in India and its status. We have not been able to break the tradition of Patriarchy, that’s the reason why the social environment or social support system doesn’t really help the woman to break out of the customary Gender roles and perceptions. So, the first thing that needs to be building up is for the society to break the tradition of Patriarchy. The larger society has to be empathetic and feel for each of the individuals. As humans are social animals and women can’t live without the society, or independently beyond the beyond society, their surroundings need to change. That is why I believe the whole social system surrounding women has to transform into something that breaks out of the customary tradition of Patriarchy. There are many customary laws that go against women hindering them to exercise their access to land. Even if there is a legal right, women’s access to land is prohibited and exercising this right is the real problem for them. Even though we have many laws, in the real sense there is a lack of implementation both legally and socially. Women’s easy access to information and legal support is a must and social support is more mandatory to ensure equitable land tenure.

Why Women’s Land Rights is Important

There is global consensus that securing women’s land rights is key to unlocking social, economic and environmental development potential in any society. Securing women’s land rights is linked to poverty reduction, food security and nutrition, women empowerment, social stability and environmental conservation in rural and urban areas. Women’s economic and social rights are founded on the principles of human rights and advanced by various human rights and gender equality instruments including the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); signed and ratified by most governments including India. Gender disparities in poverty are rooted in inequalities in access to economic resources including land. Existing literatures shows that in many countries including India, women have weaker land rights, including inheritance rights, compared to men. It is worth noting that women are not a homogeneous group and hence inequality around women’s land rights is also affected by women’s ethnicity, marital status, age, rural/urban residence, and other factors.  Inequality in women’s land rights is perpetuated by a number of factors including plural and contradicting tenure regimes (statutory and customary laws). In most developing countries, laws do not guarantee the same inheritance rights for women and men, while most customary law on tenure discriminate against women who are often subjected to intra-household power relations with spouses and or family members.

 

Land and Agenda2030, Securing Women’s Land Rights

The 2030 Agenda offer an unprecedented global opportunity to strengthen land rights for all and places land rights at the core of global development priorities iincluding key targets contributing to eradicating poverty (Goal 1), ensuring food and nutrition security (Goal 2), promoting empowerment of women and girls, and legal reforms on land (Goal 5), building sustainable and resilient cities (Goal 11), soil and environmental conservation (Goal 15); and peace and stability (SDG16).  Specifically, SDG Target 1.4 and 5.a underscores the importance of securing tenure rights for women. Monitoring progress on these targets is well position through indicator 1.4.2, 5.a.1 and 5.a.2 in the SDGs, presenting a greater opportunity to establish national baselines to monitor progress and developments in women’s land rights using comparable land indicators, linking national, regional and global efforts. The monitoring of these indicators and other land indicators in the SDGs also contributes to monitoring other land governance frameworks underscoring the importance of land rights for women. Governments have adopted several regional and global frameworks on responsible land governance including the global Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance on Tenure of Land, Forests and Fisheries (VGGT); Responsible Agriculture Investment (RAI), and the Africa Union Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa as voluntary guidelines on responsible land governance; advancing the importance of social and economic rights for women. Find more information on land and the SDGs including goals, targets , indicator and their monitoring process on the Land and SDGs platform, jointly developed by GLTN and Land Portal and supported by Omidyar Network.

 

Notable Achievements in Securing Women’s Land Rights

Many years of persistent efforts by various agencies including women’s organized groups and networks, civil society organization, international non-governmental organizations, inter-governmental organizations, UN agencies and donors have seen various initiatives raising awareness of the importance of securing women’s land rights, influenced land policies and reforms, provided legal aid and education on women’s land rights, and run campaigns dedicated to influence policies and spur action at various level. Notable recent initiatives include the Kilimanjaro Initiative by rural women in Africa and Asia Rural Women Farmers Forum and various campaigns to secure women’s land rights are just a few examples that have demonstrated the zeal to galvanize local action and policy influencing efforts led by grassroots women and their leadership, and with the support of various agencies towards securing land rights for women at local, regional and global levels.  These and other numerous efforts have progressively realized tremendous positive outcomes in the lives of local women including smallholder farmers, pastoralist; and caused national land policy changes by governments, traditional and local authorities, and regional bodies to promote gender equality in access to economic resources including land.

 

Challenges and Prospects for Monitoring Women’s Land Rights 

Despite these notable achievements, land experts and advocates of women’s land rights have also suffered a setback in the lack of land data disaggregated by sex for monitoring progress and policy influencing on land governance issues at country level. Often, tenure security initiatives are not designed and resourced to produce reliable, quality, timely and regular sex disaggregated data and statistics needed to monitor and track progress on the real situation of women’s land rights at country, regional and global scale. Where data exist, is often administrative data from land registries and only covers some geographical locations in a country e.g. urban areas or rural sections, and not disaggregated by sex. Other hand, survey data on land are either not nationally representative and use varying methodologies for data collection, and or carried out by interviewing household heads who are often male, making it challenging to use such data to profile and understand the real challenges facing women’s land rights. The situation becomes even more complex in tenure regimes under customary tenure, where land is not documented and managed by traditional chiefs and or religious leaders who are often male. While acknowledging that there are a number of case studies have shown how cultural and religious leaders have challenged such cultural limitations to champion rights of women to land, there is still a lot to done to enable to secure women’s land and property rights in the context of customary and territorial rights of indigenous communities believed to cover approximately 65% of all land in the world. 

 

The inclusion of specific targets and indicators for monitoring women’s land rights in the SDGs is a major opportunity to generate and report progress at national level, making data available for policy decisions by governments and development actors.  An Expert Group Meeting (EGM) held in New York in July 2017, preceding the High Level Political Forum; and convened by Global Land Indicators Initiative, Global Land Tool Network, UN Habitat and Oxfam, in collaboration with UN Women, Landesa and Huairou Commission examined ways of securing women’s land rights in the SDGs and its monitoring, focused on SDGs 1 and 5. The Expert Group Meeting brought together gender, land and women’s land rights experts from across the world including grassroots women leaders, CSOs, INGOs, private sector, representatives from National Statistical Organization and regional bodies responsible for land and statistics including in India, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Uganda, Africa Centre for Statistics and Africa Union Land Policy Initiative. Experts in the meeting made a number of recommendations including:

  • Multi-stakeholders efforts must be sustained to ensure land governance reforms leaves no one behind including putting in place policies and programs that respect, secure and protect tenure rights to land and other natural resources rights for all women including small-scale producers, pastoralists, or fishers, indigenous women, and women who live in areas affected by conflict or have been displaced in rural and urban areas.
  • The importance of globally comparable and nationally applicable methodology to generate sex-disaggregated data to assess and track progress on women’s land rights for policy decisions.
  • The importance of country capacity strengthening for National Statistical Offices, national land registries and cadasters, CSOs and other stakeholders in data collection and reporting on these indicators.
  • Need to enhance the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security, and regional frameworks on land governance which enshrines the principles of gender equality and recognition of the continuum of land rights.

Access to quality, regular and timely land disaggregated data on land is critical for policy review, development and influencing land reforms and development agenda on areas of land governance that benefits to women. Despite the data challenge, more countries are now conducting household surveys, in addition to regular population censuses, producing important data on agriculture, social and economic status, presenting opportunities to anchor generation of tenure security sex disaggregated data, in addition to administrative data collected by land registries and cadasters. While noting the disparities in progress made in securing women’s land rights by countries and regions, and existence of unique challenges facing constituencies of women in securing their tenure rights,  the case in India under discussion certainly profiles and mirror significantly challenges faced by women across the globe that need policy and programme attention to achieve the SDGs. A multi-stakeholders’ approach involving local communities, local authorities, National Statistical Organizations and national land agencies including registries and cadasters, CSOs, International NGOs, private sector, UN agencies and donors to promote local and national strategies for implementation and monitoring of women’s land rights to achieve the SDGs. The Global land Indicators Initiative (GLII) hosted and facilitated by GLTN at UN-Habitat and its partners puts the women’s land rights agenda at the center of its global coordination, development land indicators and methodologies for monitoring land governance liked to land and development frameworks including SDGs, the VGGT, New Urban Agenda, AU Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy Initiatives among others.

This is in response to Q1 from me and my colleague Sreetama Gupta Bhaya

While Individual property and agricultural rights are very important for women, there is also the need to focus on women’s right for access and control over natural resources especially in the context of the tribal women and women from other traditional forest dwelling communities.

The depletion of commons pose a severe threat to the livelihoods and food security of poor rural women and me. Given that social norms results in women performing specific roles, they are the one responsible for collection of fuel wood, fodder, water etc.

The important question is how to ensure gender equity in decision making regarding conservation and management and benefit sharing of resources. For example, women may collect branches and Minor forest produces, whereas men may have rights to harvest trees, negotiate the price of the Minor forest products to be sold in the market. The choice of species vary for plantation among men and women.

There is a need to recognize the interlinkages of rights to forest and forest resources with the right to livelihoods and subsistence, given the significant role that women play in the survival and maintenance of households from forests and natural resources.

Commons as a resource recognises equal rights of all users by the principle of natural justice. Therefore the spaces for negotiations by the women are much wider that the spaces available in the private property domain.

Collective decision making in collective spaces empowers women much more as she derives strength from the collectives and in the longer run penetrates in the family level decision making

 

In tribal-dominated districts, be it Koraput in Odisha or Dumka in Jharkhand, while women don’t have legal titles to land, plots of land, particularly the dongar or bari (uplands), are socially recognised as women’s plots. Women control the choice of crops and the output, critical for household nutrition. In Koraput, women grow millets, horsegram, niger and vegetables on these plots, and in Dumka it was maize, black-eye beans, mustard and vegetables (Rao, 2017 http://lansasouthasia.org/content/gendered-time-seasonality-and-nutritio... and Rao, 2008). These contribute to the diversity of diets at home, but women also sell small quantities in the local markets, whenever they need cash for expenses.

Yet today corporate interventions, especially the rapid spread of eucalyptus plantations for the paper industry, across central and eastern India, as well as new legislation such as the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act 2016 (CAMPA), which displaces women farmers from their upland plots, are threatening not just their livelihoods but equally status as farmers. A Paroja woman in Koraput noted, “I used to grow mandya (finger millet) in two plots for our daily consumption. Someone from the company spoke to my husband and convinced him of the profitability of planting eucalyptus. He agreed, and now I have only one plot left. Only if there is food from our land, is there happiness”. The option of course is to purchase millets from the market, but this is hardly available and prices are unaffordable.

While denying the jointness of both production and reproduction in tribal areas, these interventions are gradually making male control of land, income and indeed women the norm, with negative consequences for nutrition. Baseline nutritional data from LANSA research in Koraput indicates that over 50% of both under-5 and adult population are underweight, especially amongst the STs and SCs. The National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (2009), noting a marginal decline in Chronic Energy Deficiency amongst STs between 1985-2008, alongside a secular decline in the consumption of roots and tubers, as well as other vegetables, confirms this finding.

Day-5 of the online discussion was the 2nd Day of the deliberation on 2nd set questions on legal and institutional frameworks around Women Land Rights in India. There were seven discussants in Day 2, out of which five discussed Q2 and two responded to Q1 (on contribution of WLR to overall development). Discussants present an interesting diversity, providing varied perspectives to the dialogue. While two of them are Indian Researchers, working in UK, one an international expert, one is a Vice Chancellor of a women university, one if from an INGO and another a freelance researcher.

Dr Chamu Kupusway, an international legal researcher, highlighted the challenges to expediting equitable land tenure in India as poor coordination between departments, the oppressive attitude of monitoring of organiations working in tribal area, lack of data etc. She emphasized that a focussed approach is required for mainstreaming gender into land governance.

Dr Amrita Patel, a gender policy advisor from Odisha, shared the good practices in the state around reduction of stamp duty by 1% on sale and gift deed executed in favour of women in respect of land and house. But, she felt that the impact is not visible so far and there’s a need to generate data around it. State Policy on Women and Girl Child, of which she was one of the archiects, prescribes extension of land lease at nominal rates in favour of women’s groups for productive activities, for agriculture and horticulture purposes and also allotment 0.04 acre of homestead land to rural poor single women.

Sibabrata Choudhury, a land tenure expert, says that India, like most developing countries, have brought in quite a few legislations and directives,  which have increased the chances of women getting land. However, the situation in terms of women’s land ownership and their levels of empowerment has not improved significantly. He attributed the reasons to gaps at supply-demand level: lack of proper orientation of the implementing staff and awareness at the community level. Moreover there is lack of adequate institutional support mechanisms to actualise these changed legislations. In the state of Odisha, Jharkhand and Bihar, his experiences indicate in particular a strong gap in understanding about gender issues and a bias among officials for women owning land. He summarized that the barriers are at three levels (legal, institutional and community) and efforts should be made towards addressing them through innovative approaches.

Prof Padmaja Mishra, Vice Chancellor of a Women University, appreciated the legal and institutional reforms as supportive, but felt that  they have not been able to bring in desired change. It is so because the social system that surrounds women are dominated by patriarchy which obstructs absolute empowerment of women at ground level. We have not been able to break the tradition of Patriarchy, that’s the reason why the social environment or social support system doesn’t really help the woman to break out of the customary gender roles and perceptions.  The larger society has to be empathetic and feel for each of the individuals. There are many customary laws that go against women hindering them to exercise their access to land. Even if there is a legal right, women’s access to land is prohibited and exercising this right is the real problem for them. Most of such laws, suffer lack of implementation legally and socially. Women’s easy access to information and legal support is a must and social support is more mandatory to ensure equitable land tenure.

Sharmistha and Sreetama from Oxfam-India, in response to Q1, underlined the importance of women’s right for access and control over common natural resources especially in the context of the tribal women and women from other traditional forest dwelling communities. They felt that while individual property and agricultural rights are very important for women, such commons’ rights also need to be centre-staged. Depletion of commons pose a severe threat to the livelihoods and food security of poor rural women and men. Social norms results in women performing specific roles, viz. collection of fuel wood, fodder, water etc. largely from commons. They add that focus is needed to recognize the interlinkages of rights to forest and forest resources with the right to livelihoods and subsistence. Commons as a resource recognises equal rights of all users by the principle of natural justice. Therefore the spaces for negotiations by the women are much wider. Collective decision making in collective spaces empowers women much more as she derives strength from the collectives and in the longer run, penetrates in the family level decision making

In response to Q1, Dr Nitya Rao, a gender Expert from University of East Anglia, shared that her experiences from tribal-areas in India. While women don’t have legal titles to land, plots of land, particularly the Dongar or Bari (uplands), are socially recognised as women’s plots. Women control the choice of crops and the output, critical for household nutrition, which  contribute to dietary diversity and also some income from selling small surplus. Some current laws encourage plantation in tribal areas which displaces women farmers from their upland plots, are threatening not just their livelihoods but equally status as farmers. Men are getting convinced regarding returns from the farms and taking decisions for plantation forcing the family to buy their food which is unaffordable leading to mal nutrition. While denying the jointness of both production and reproduction in tribal areas, plantation based interventions are gradually making male control of land, income and indeed women the norm, with negative consequences for nutrition.

Everlyne Nairesiae, GLII Coordinator of UN-Habitat, highlighted the global consensus on securing women’s land rights as key to unlocking social, economic and environmental development potential in any society. Existing literatures shows that in many countries including India, women have weaker land rights, including inheritance rights, compared to men. Inequality in women’s land rights is perpetuated by a number of factors including plural and contradicting tenure regimes (statutory and customary laws). Many years of persistent efforts by various agencies have seen various initiatives raising awareness of the importance of securing women’s land rights, influenced land policies and reforms, provided legal aid and education on women’s land rights, and run campaigns dedicated to influence policies and spur action at various level. Despite these notable achievements, land experts and advocates of women’s land rights have also suffered a setback in the lack of land data disaggregated by sex for monitoring progress and policy influencing on land governance issues at country level.  The inclusion of specific targets and indicators for monitoring women’s land rights in the SDGs is a major opportunity to generate and report progress at national level, making data available for policy decisions by governments and development actors.   An Expert Group Meeting (EGM) held in New York in July 2017, examined ways of securing women’s land rights in the SDGs and its monitoring, focused on SDGs 1 and 5. Experts in the meeting made a number of recommendations around the need of sustainaing multi-stakeholders efforts, importance of globally comparable and nationally applicable methodology to generate sex-disaggregated data, need of country capacity strengthening, and the need to enhance the implementation of the VGGT etc.

I think the way our entire land governance system works and also the way the society looks at property right, women have little say in the whole governance structure and in the whole societal understanding of land and livelihoods. Women overall have very little say and there are few laws in in which women’s rights are recognised. In some states land is registered in the name of both man and women or in women’s name. But mostly it’s in the man’s name in almost all states. There may not be enough laws which ensure that women have equal control over land. If there are laws there is not much awareness within the system that implements these laws. The society on the other hand is also not oriented or there is not much awareness that women would benefit or it will beneficial for women when they have equal rights over property. There isn’t much acceptance so far in the society regarding women’s land ownership. Women can hardly inherit land from their parents even though there are laws that ensure their inheritance rights.

The barriers to women's land rights are at all levels: legal, institutional as well as community. My answer here focuses on some of good practices followed by members of Working Group for women and land Ownership (WGWLO), network of 41 CSOs in Gujarat- at all three fronts.  

1. While the HSAA gives opportunity, it is the patriarchal mindset of policy implementers which acts as a barrier to implement the law. In order to create a conducive environment, we, at WGWLO have: 

a. Conducted perspective building of more than 3000 grass roots revenue officers in the Government training institutes; and

- have got this as a topic in the syllabus of the Talati (grassroots revenue officers) trg through government resolution.

Similarly, structured dialogues are also held with Block and district level officials on this issue, which has led to positive impact in changing their perspective on WLR. 

à If we can build perspective of the implementing officers at all levels of revenue department, the legal provisions will be implemented in true spirit. 

2. At the community front, our experience showed three things: 

a. Men and women -both lack awareness about women’s legal land rights;

à In order to overcome this, members of WGWLO regularly run campaigns at village and block level – focusing both on men and women, with several participatory tools designed to address the issue of WLR in a non controversial way. This has seen a positive impact on men and women about women’s land rights. Such campaigns by Government could go a long way.While there have been campaigns for RTE and RTI, there is not enough awareness on HSAA- the logic and the content. This needs to be done by the Govt to create awareness in the community.

b. There are women who struggle initially on their own to own agriculture land, but give up at the end as they do not have anyone who could support and guide them on legal front. 

à In order to address this, we have come up with a model of women Para legal worker, who is trained not just on knowledge regarding revenue matters, but also on social skills to convince the family members of the women. This has really worked well.

While the Legal service Authority does have a course for Para legal workers, the focus on revenue matters is not there again. This needs to have a separate cadre by itself. When women are Para legal workers for the land matters, it has an easy access for other women to share their issue. Govt could think of this at community level.  

c. Despite several initiatives of the govt offering single service window for all schemes to women; or for domestic violence, - there is no institutional mechanism which offers services on revenue matters to women.

WGWLO came up with the idea of Swa Bhoomi Kendra as a logical progression to the model of Para legal workers. The  ‘Swa Bhoomi Kednra’ is where the two trained women para legal workers sit at the block level twice a week, preferably in/close to the premises of the Block revenue official. This has made a huge impact to the visibility of the issue as also in resolving the issues faced by women related to land rights.

 d. As far as policies are concerned, Gujarat has reduced registration fee exclusively for women property owners. Impact study of this has been done by WGWLO for the Mussorie Academy of Administration, where in, to our pleasant surprise, despite women at times being ‘used’ by men,  showed a positive relation between women’s empowerment and property owned through reduced registration fees. Such proactive measures by state will take WLR a long way.

This could also be done in major agriculture schemes, where  a higher incentive for women land owners will motivate them to have women as land owners.

Seema has rightly raised issue of partition of land and stamp duty.

Every policy measure needs to be seen from gender perspective- and seen what implications it will have on women. For example, the I kisan portal requires registration of all land owners to avail major schemes of govt related to agriculture. Now when women do not even know about this, how does one expect them to take action? Similarly, though the land survey process in Gujarat has been laid down wonderfully, in reality, if it is not followed, then women are the worst losers.  Thus, along with coming up with special policies and schemes for women, it is important that gender mainstreaming takes place in all revenue poliices, procedures and schemes.  

When it comes to the legal challenges and opportunities, three important aspects comes to my mind immediately –

1.      The laws governing inheritance and the laws governing recording of land rights are two different sets of laws in almost all the states of India. The authorities/courts deciding/enforcing the provisions of these two set of laws are also different. What is the share of a woman’s property is decided as per the personal laws or the Hindu Succession Act or India Succession Act. Once that share is decided issuing of patta, mutations in the records are done under revenue/land laws. Only the civil courts have the power to decide the share in case of disputes. Land / revenue authorities are conferred with the power to mutate the land records and issue patta. Many times the land/revenue authorities have limited or no knowledge about succession laws. The state of Uttar Pradesh recently enacted a Revenue Code, among other things, containing provisions regarding both succession and recording of rights. This helps in bringing clarity among the land / revenue officers. Further, the provisions in Revenue Code are applicable to all religions. That means the provisions of this Code will govern the inheritance of agricultural land for all religions. This model with necessary modifications is worth replicating in other states. Also, training to revenue officers at all levels on a regular basis can help women becoming landowners. The state of Gujarat is an example in this regard.

2.      In most of the states, laws and rules governing land distribution requires that the land allocation should be in the name of women or it should be a joint patta. Unfortunately, it’s not followed in letter and spirit. There is no proper monitoring of this provision and gender-disaggregated data are nor often reported. A detailed study on the status of implementation of these provisions and proper monitoring in future can help more women gaining land rights

3.      Even when women are cultivating land their names are not being entered in the land records as cultivators. It should be imperative on part of the land administration officials to enter the women name in the cultivation column of the relevant land records. If the entry is not made in the records it will deprive her of all the benefits due to her as a cultivator. 

Earlier under Hindu Succession Act 1956, women were not getting their full rights on their ancestral property and since the Hindu Succession Act was amended in 2005, and daughters have equal rights, they are entitled to get their full rights as co- parishioners. This means daughter who had limited rights on the property of their ancestors are now coparceners along with the sons and have equal or absolute rights over the property along with the brothers. In section 14 if the woman acquires any property either by way of deed, will, inheritance or by purchase then she’ll be absolute owner in respect of that property. This means the law has provisions for women to inherit ancestral property but the only hindrance is lack of women’s access to the court seeking legal support. The legal provisions can be applied only when women come to court and ask for their rights. The women who come to the court are minuscule. The other important issue is the non-recording of names of women in the Record of Rights therefore; women or daughters remain out of the purview of inheritance. The granddaughters and grandsons have equal right on the property of the grandfather even if the father is alive. But daughter’s names are not recorded due to patriarchal mind set and the fact that she gets a dowry from the family it is considered that her claim is no longer valid and the land is possessed by the brothers. The daughters in turn do not claim their rights, as socially they want to maintain a good relationship with the brothers is another hindrance.

Another hindrance in the process is lack of suo motto recording of women’s names in the government records, the brothers also do not record voluntarily and women are not aware of this process, as a result of this they do not claim their rights. Annually the government revenue officers should conduct a door to door survey and should update their records regarding the women after the death of their father after the HSA amendment of 2005.

In the case of tribal women HSA is not applicable for them. There is no notification until now regarding tribal women inheritance if not then tribal customs are to be applicable. But tribal customs are not codified so far as a result, tribal women do not get inheritance rights in any manner. There are very rare cases of Tribal women getting inheritance rights. The Supreme Court has ruled that in cases where it is found that the families are practicing Hindu cultural norms and if there are evidence that they are sufficiently Hinduaised and if they have adopted the Hindu tradition and culture, for example they have Hindu names over generations, they visit temple etc the Supreme Court has ruled that HSA can be applicable for them. But these are rare instance as people are not aware regarding this matter. For example, there are some progressive administrators who have applied this principle and ensured that tribal women get inheritance rights. In another instance in the Sundergarh district of Odisha there have been major cases of land acquisition in which the compensation was huge so this led the tribal leaders to claim under the Supreme Court Tribunal that they are Hindus and HSA was applied in those cases and no one has objected to that.

In conclusion it is important that more and more women should be made aware regarding their rights and to reach the courts in order for the court to extend them legal support. Government has provisions but it is not being implemented adequately in case of the women – due to societal barriers and institutional barriers in terms on structure and major issues are lack of awareness and patriarchal mind-set. Solutions can come in addressing the conservative gender biased mind set and recording names of daughters in Record of Rights.

As per the recommendation of the Report of the sub group on Economic Empowerment of Women with focus on Land Rights, Property Rights and Inheritance Laws under Steering Committee on 'Women's Agency and Child Rights' for the Twelfth Five Year Plan, existing formal institutions must take the initiative to recognize women’s roles and needs in various fields of agricultural activity. For this they must ensure participation of women farmers in designing programmes for technical training and research. Women’s access to agricultural technology should be improved through designing women friendly agricultural technology.

Most problems that women face in agriculture would get sorted out if their rights over land are recognized in the revenue records. Endowing women with land would empower them economically as well as strengthen their ability to challenge social and political gender inequities. There are three main sources of land for women: direct government transfers, market (by purchase or lease), and inheritance. To enhance women’s land access from all three sources, a range of initiatives are needed, including land titles to women in all government land transfers, credit support to poor women to purchase or lease in land from the market, raising legal awareness and legal support about women’s inheritance rights, supportive government schemes, recording women’s inheritance shares etc.

It will also need a new approach to enable women to retain the land they get by strongly encouraging a “group approach” in land cultivation and investment in productive assets. It is now well recognized that the poor are best empowered if they function as a group rather than as individuals. This lesson should be incorporated in the creation of all productive assets in women’s hands. Where new land is being distributed or regularized, individual titles or group titles rather than joint titles with husbands should be provided. This would need a change in the state tenancy laws to allow leasing of land to women’s groups as well as recognize such groups as a valid category of landowners. There should be reliable, fair and accessible mechanisms such as social audits with greater participation of women in the audit bodies for resolving disputes and providing remedies in matters related to tenure and security of lease.

The 2005 Hindu succession Act brings all agricultural land on par with other property and makes Hindu women's inheritance rights in land legally equal to men's across states, overriding any inconsistent State laws. This can benefit millions of women dependent on agriculture for survival. It may be prudent to make these rights inalienable and non-transferable for the first twenty years on the pattern of pattas under the Forest Rights Act. However various provisions with regards to devolution of woman's property in the same manner as man's, restricting the right to will to prohibit disinheritance of wives and daughters, protecting women's right to property by eliminating forced coercion to relinquish their shares, and ensuring that HSA overrides State laws related to agricultural land needs to be reviewed and strategically acted upon.

We also suggest that the government should have a secular law (as the Hindu Succession Act, 2005 does not apply to all communities) regarding equality based succession of land and property by women and men. This is to overcome the social, cultural barriers embedded in the personal laws and promote gender equality as an integral part of democratic and human rights.

The Department of Land Resources in the Ministry of Rural Development (MORD) should launch a campaign to correct revenue records and ensure that women’s land ownership rights are properly recorded by the states with intimation to them, while the Planning Commission must coordinate with other Ministries, such as Agriculture, Livestock, Finance, and Women & Child Development (MWCD) to ensure speedy implementation of the suggestions given in this report. Further MORD, MWCD, UN Women and the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie could devise programmes for awareness building. Monitorable targets should be set for the district collectors to ensure timely implementation of law. Also, UPSC examination questions on women’s property and inheritance rights be geared to increase awareness about the issue.  Further, MWCD and UN Women should think of preparing and circulating pamphlets to Members of Parliament that enable them raising concerns about women’s rights to land and property in Parliament.

 

Question # 3. What is the present status of women’s land rights in India? How is it reported? What are the available potential administrative and open data sets that is or can be used to monitor women’s land rights in India and in its states?

There is not much clarity on the current status of women’s land rights in India.  The confusion arises due to both conceptual and data related reasons. There is no national level mechanism to systematically collect data on women’s ownership of land. In other words, we do not have sex-disaggregated data on land ownership. We do not know if individuals own land, we only know if households own land.

 

Since data is collected for the household as the unit, what we do have on land ownership is disaggregation by head of the household – male headed vs. female headed. This categorization is not satisfactory at several levels. Most importatnly, from the SDG indicators perspective, not having individual level data means that we cannot measure and consequently track the progess of women’s land ownership. The female head is held as a proxy for all women! It is quite possible that she does not have ownership rights to the land held by the household, rather is it is held by the adult son or another male member.

 

The head of household as defined by the Census 2011 is a person who is recognised as such by the household. She or he is generally the person who bears the chief responsibility for managing the affairs of the household and takes decision on behalf of the household. The head need not necessarily be the oldest male member or an earning member, but may be a female or a younger member of either sex. In case of an absentee de jure 'Head' who is not eligible to be enumerated in the household, the person on whom the responsibility of managing the affairs of household rests was to be regarded as the head irrespective whether the person is male or female. It is well known that women are only identified as heads in the absence of an adult male.

 

There are several data sets available (adminstrative and open) that could be used for monitoring women’s land rights; unfortunately most of them do not have sex-disaggregated information on land ownership. The household is used as the unit of analysis.

 

  1. Individual level
  • National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 4, 2015-16, nationally and state reprsentative
    • Question on ownership of agricultural land posed to individual woman (15-46 years of age) in sampled household
    • Data is not available for download. Previous 3 rounds are available for download but do not have this question for women.
  • India Human Development Survey (IHDS) 2 (2011-12), nationally representative, but not at the state level
    • Upto 3 household members are identified within the household as owners of agricultural land
    • Data is open
  • Agricultural Census, census of all agricultural land holdings
    • Data is on operational holdings[1] rather than ownership holdings, as key decisions on plot and farm management are taken by those who operate the land, who may not necessarily be owners of the land.
      • Unit level data is not accessible, but tabulation requests can be made on the website
    • Household level
  • All India Debt and Investment Survey (AIDIS) (2002-03, 2012-13), nationally and state reprsentative
    • Question on land ownership asked at the household level. No individual information.
    • Data is open
  • Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), 2011
    •  Question on land ownership asked at the household level. No individual information.
    • Data is not available for download

 

 

There are other state level surveys, Karnataka Household Asset Survey (KHAS) that have individual level land ownership information. However, the data is not yet open and such surveys are by their nature sporadic and infrequent.

 

It is not clear how India is reporting or proposing to report on its commitments on monitoring women’s land rights. The NITI Aayog website provides information on the Ministry that is responsible for the goals and targets (dated 8th June 2017) (http://niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/SDGsV20-Mapping080616-DG_0.pdf).

 

For Goal 1.4, the concerned ministries are Agriculture & Cooperation, Land Resources, Drinking Water & Sanitation, HUPA, RD, Panchayati Raj, Urban Development.

 

For Goal 5.5a, the ministries are WCD, Land Resource, Urban Development, HUPA.

 

The common Ministries here are Urban Development and HUPA.

 

The demarcation of responsibilities and coordination mechanism between ministers are not clear, nor are the data sources identified which will enable the monitoring of women’s land rights.

 

[1] An operational holding refers to all land which is used wholly or partly for agricultural production and is operated as one technical unit by one person alone or with others without regard to the title, legal form, size or location.

At present there is no gender disaggregated data on land ownership or access available. In fact in some states such as Maharashtra, a complete resurvey would be required if such data were to be made available as the names are not listed as wife of or daughter of etc which can be inferred for data disaggregation. The recommendation thus is that the DoLR should thus not stop at merely issuing advisories for the State revenue departments but also make resources available to ensure that disaggregated data is made available. There is need for an ongoing review and monitoring committee for this purpose in which the revenue secretaries of every state participate to share problems and progress.  This should pertain to both state lands and also private property.

Similarly, there is no data available on release deeds made by women in favour of men. Such data would help us understand the gravity of the problem and should therefore be made available on land portals and the review committee mentioned above should take stock of such numbers periodically and also launch a study across different states with reference to such release deeds.

 

 

The major issue is lack of data in this context. In the context of FRA, though joint titles are to be recognised, there is however no disaggregated data to show how many single women, women headed households have received rights for cultivation. There is no way to compare the overall/ average area which women headed household receives in comparison to other households.

Even where attempts to find out gender disaggregated data is made, the effort to hold separate discussions with separate category of women is not made and responses are conveniently collected from panchayats mostly dominated by men. This gives biased data.

 

My question to the legal experts :

Assessments of the Laws around Women’s land right reveals that there are some existing gaps related to women’s land rights. One of the major gaps in most of the States is the lack of mandatory recording of women’s name in the Record of Rights. Even in the State specific laws the definition of a ‘Family’ doesn’t cover women who are single. Law is not simplified and doesn’t reach women who themselves struggle to deal with strong gender biased social and institutional barriers. Land administrative officials are not sensitive and find out ways to intimidate women in particular to discourage them from raising their voices for their rights. Legal mechanism can work only when the woman if she reaches or approaches the Court. The government has provisions of providing legal support through Legal Services Authorities that are supposed to be functional even level at the grass roots level. Even the LSA

Most important is the lack of gender sensitivity within the institutional structure as well as capacities of the revenue officials at various levels. Experience of working with the administration has revealed that the number of officials is not adequate in the systems, the number of women officials is low, especially at the field level and there’s no structured training provided on women land rights. Therefore, these officials who come from within the society carry the biases that they themselves have seen in their families.

When we are talking about women they are not a homogeneous group, they are different and are rural, urban, tribal, poor etc and their needs are different, and the law like HSA doesn’t provision for this heterogeneity.

I would like opinion from legal land tenure experts how law can address these heterogeneity.

 

The debate on women’s land rights has become very critical as participants are sharing what has worked and what further needs to be done. On the 6th day of the online debate, we received 5 entries from participants of varied background.

 

Mr. Kumar S Shrivastava, a recognized journalist and a sensitive writer indicates about the marginalization of women from the entire land governance  systems, land and livelihoods. Pointing out at the lack of will for implementing land based laws favouring women, he says there are very few states where such laws exist.

 

On the other hand, agreeing with the previous participant’s point of lack of political will to implement laws favouring women’s land and property rights, Ms. Shilpa Vasavada, an independent development practitioner from Gujarat has showed hope by sharing examples from a state level grass root based network, WGWLO that facilitating WLR and sensitizing revenue officials is possible with consistent efforts. She clearly suggests working at three levels; engaging with the relevant administrative officials, the community and the policy makers. She further shares that persistent efforts in sensitizing revenue officers have brought in very significant changes and WGWLO has been successful in inserting a chapter on WLR in the regular and refreshers’ course of revenue officials in Gujarat. However, she says that merely sensitive officials will not help since the community and the mindset of people carry patriarchy lense; she shared that engaging with community and in that with both women and men both will convince daughters and wives and single women to own and facilitate land rights. In addition to this, she says that it’s imperative to have a support system in terms of women’s collective and a set mechanism where the awareness on WLR is translated into action, sharing the example and experiences of “Swa-Bhoomi Kendra” at block level she says that paralegals who are trained in land & revenue laws and are well aware of inheritance laws are able to facilitate social and legal procedural support to the woman who have come forward to demand her land. She concludes by saying that WLR is very critical and every policy needs to have such gender perspective to support women empowerment.

 

Mr. M Sunil Kumar, a development practitioner, who studied law has vast experience on working on the issue of land rights in different states. He rightly points out at the two different laws which are vital in facilitating WLR; law governing inheritance and law governing recording of land rights, and in that he reiterates the inheritance law is subject to centre whereas land is a state subject. Sharing example of Uttar Pradesh (UP), one of states of India, which has come up with Revenue Code, which has spells out about inheritance and land recording, which is applicable to all religion. With this encouraging step of UP government, he further says that sensitising officers is very important. In another point, he says that even though there exists laws/rules which defines land ownership either singly or jointly in the name of wife & husband, it’s not followed in letter or spirit. Pointing out at the need for having gender desegregated data he puts forward a need to study status of implementation of such laws. And lastly he makes very important point that even though women are the cultivators, their names are not put in the land record as cultivators, which deprives them of all agricultural benefits.

 

Mr. Shubendra Mohanty, a retired district judge, has very clearly explained the HSA and HSAA and its relevance. He said that the Hindu Succession Act 1056 gave equal right to women but the amendment in this act in 2005 further made daughters coparceners in the ancestral property of the family along with brothers. However, he says that women’s access to courts is a major problem. He also reiterates what Mr. Sunil Kumar said that woman’s name is not recorded in the record of right and hence, she gets deleted in inheritance, he makes very important point here that, the granddaughters and grandsons have equal right on the property of the grandfather even if the father is alive. But daughter’s names are not recorded due to patriarchal mind set and the fact that she gets a dowry from the family. In the verge of maintaining social relations, daughters do not feel comfortable in demanding her land rights from father. Indicating another hindrance, he says that there is lack of suo motto recording of women’s names in the government records, the brothers also do not record voluntarily and women are not aware of this process, as a result of which sisters do not claim their rights. Talking about practices in tribal community, he says that the tribal customs are not codified and in such cases tribal women's land rights are compromised, sighting an example of land acquisition of Odisha in the Sundergarh district he says that against land acquisition the compensation was huge so this led the tribal leaders to claim under the Supreme Court Tribunal that they are Hindus and HSA was applied in those cases and no one has objected to that. In conclusion he says that solutions can come in addressing the conservative gender biased mindset and recording names of daughters in Record of Rights.

 

Dr. Vandana Jena, Ex- Secretary of the Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development, has made very critical comments being there and then in the system. She reiterates the recommendation of the Report of the sub group on Economic Empowerment of Women with focus on Land Rights, Property Rights and Inheritance Laws under Steering Committee on 'Women's Agency and Child Rights' for the Twelfth Five Year Plan, and stresses upon the existing formal institutions to take the initiative to recognize women’s roles and needs in various fields of agricultural activity. Recognizing the identity of women farmers, she says that participation of women farmers in designing programmes for technical training and research must be ensured and women’s access to agricultural technology should be improved through designing women friendly agricultural technology. Emphasizing the recording of rights of women in revenue records, she feels that if this is done, then land rights would be well enjoyed by women. She says that a woman can access land in three ways, through government transfer, market purchase and inheritance, which will empower her economically as well as strengthen her ability to challenge socio-political gender inequality. In retaining the land that women gets, she suggests individual and/or group titles over joint tiles of husband and wife, considering that the poor are best empowered if they function as a group. And in that she points out that the land tenancy laws need to be amended accordingly. Along with this, she says that there should be reliable, fair and accessible mechanisms such as social audits with greater participation of women in the audit bodies for resolving disputes and providing remedies in matters related to tenure and security of lease. Making her point that HSAA has given equal right to women along with men in the ancestral property but the need is also to make such mechanism alike in FRA where the landowner woman retains the land patta for up to 20 years and can not transfer before that. She also feels the need to have a secular law regarding equality based succession of land and property for women and men since the HSAA would be applicable to specific communities. Suggesting few action points for the government, she says that MORD, MWCD, UN Women, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie to develop awareness building programs, launch campaigns, come up with monitoring indicators and monitor implementation of laws and bringing about awareness on WLRs amongst MPs.

Warmly,

Sejal Dave

Availability and access to food  are important determinants of nutrition. As per LANCET improving dietary diversity is an important aspect of nutriiton. WHO's Minimum Dietary dviesity standard is  5 out of 10 food groups for women and 4 out of 7 food groups for children under 6 . According to LANCET women's access and control over resources has an important impact on HH nutrition. However with women not having ownership and access to land limits their ability to have a say in terms of the food production at the household level. Whether it is a home stead land or farm land, lack of ownership rights limits her ability to participate in decisions around food production. 

Landownership for women matters, for one, it gives some security, not only against abandonment by a husband or to escape violence, but also for old age; to make sure sons will look after her. However, nearly all the women in my study in West-Bengal considered the benefits of land ownership only in these terms of security, not in terms of security for their current livelihood, food security, or decision-making power within the household.

Gender equity in tenure rights is broader than equality in landownership. Women who do own land are not necessarily controlling it as well; male household members are still more likely to be making all land-related decisions. There are too many ideological constraints preventing women from effective farming or effective managing land. For example, it is inappropriate for women to sell the harvest at the market, thus even when a woman cultivates her own land she still needs to rely on a husband/brother/father to make the sale, the latter will then receive the actual money and often keeps it in his control. Women are therefore often not interested in increasing their role in agriculture as the time and energy they put in will not be compensated. Other restraints are that women have trouble buying chemicals as shop owners refuse to sell out of fear the woman will use it to commit suicide, women are not supposed to operate farm equipment, women are underrepresented in irrigation committees. These ideological constraints need to be addressed, otherwise gender equity in tenure rights is simply impossible.

Ownership of cultivatable land for women can have negative repercussions as their responsibility within the household in terms of food security might increase, while that of men might decrease. Furthermore, resentment might grow against women who claim their land rights and their control over land as they are socially expected to give this land to a brother or husband.

 

On day 7 we have received five responses, interestingly, three participants have indicated greater needs for having gender desegregated data on land ownership, one discusses WLR as important contributing factor in food and nutrition security while other participant discusses constraints to gender equity in tenure rights.

Meera Sundararajan, a development professional, says that the nutritional security of a household depends on the availability and access to food, she further suggests linkages of food diversity and nutritional security and reiterates that access to land and ownership over it for women help her decide which crop to grow and hence, land rights to women are very important.

Lianne Oosterbaan, a PhD students makes her points based on her study in West Bengal, that land ownership, as the women suggested, did give security however, they were not in agreement that it extended their then livelihood security, food security and decision making power in the household. Putting forward her argument she says that gender equity in tenure rights is broader than gender equality in land-ownership and adds that women’s land ownership not necessarily implies that women control and decides upon the land. Additionally, she shares ideological constraints by giving examples on WLR, which hampers women from selling agricultural produce in the market and purchase chemicals from the agri. business centres and hence, indicates that such factors contribute to women’s ineffective farming. She opines that WLR can have negative repercussions as it enhances women’s responsibility as food provider in the household and says that bitterness might increase against women who claim land from her brother.

In this debate, Ms. Sonali Mohapatra poses some questions to the legal expert; she says that there have been gaps in mandatory recording of names of women in the land records, while most agriculture and land based program/policy takes into consideration family as a unit but the definition of family not necessarily cover women who are single. In addition to the constraints of women’s access to courts, she further says that the administrative officials’ patriarchal mindset demotivates women to struggle for their land rights. She also refers to the non-homogeneous identity of women by indicating women from rural - urban background, tribal and Dalit community and so on to whom the HSA has no provision for.

Discussing lack of gender desegregated data on land ownership, Sarmistha Bose, Seema Kulkarni and Hema Swaminathan have similar concerns to share. Ms. Bose says that the FRA has mandatory recording of distributed forest land in the joint name of wife and husband however, this records are not maintained and hence, locating forest land ownership of single women is very difficult. Ms. Swaminathan further says that since there are no national level mechanism to track the status of women’s land ownership, and the data on land ownership is available at household level, it further confuses on WLR status. Indicating various available data sets like NFHS, IHDS, Agriculture Census, AIDIS, SECC, out of which some are accessible and some are not, she shares her doubts as to how India is proposing to report on its commitments to monitor WLR in SDGs.   

Ms. Kulkarni clearly says that there are no gender desegregated data available on women’s land ownership and recommends that DoLR should be merely issuing advisories for the State revenue departments but also make resources available to ensure that disaggregated data is made available and reiterates that there needs to be a monitoring mechanism set up by the central government in which they invite all state revenue secretaries and share problems and progress periodically, pertaining to both types of land, private and common/state.

We wish to have more responses and encourage legal experts to respond.

Warmly,

Sejal Dave

Issues with Data

 

Agricultural Census data is classified by the sex of the head of the household, wherein female headed households (FHH) are largely male-absent ones, while male headed households (MHH) include adult women. While providing some insight into the possible differences between male and female-headed households, this data tells us little about the land access of a majority of rural women, who live in male-headed households.

 

Secondly, women’s land access has to be seen against the backdrop of increases in the number of marginal holdings and overall growing inequality of land ownership as indicated by agricultural census data (Table 1). This is confirmed by micro-studies. Ramachandran et al (2010:38) reporting from their three study villages in Andhra Pradesh find that landlords and big capitalist farmers, while occupying only, 2, 3 and 1 per cent of households in the respective study villages, owned 25, 22 and 19 per cent of the village lands. At the same time, disaggregating this by gender reveals an increase (by 2.6 per cent) in the proportion of holdings held in the names of women between 1995 and 2011

 

Table 1.  Number of operational holdings (in percent) by size class and gender of head of household.

 

Thirdly, there are problems of interpreting the available data. The WGWLO study (2004) demonstrates the various ways in which women might acquire their rights, and the difficulties they might encounter in operationalizing them. In-depth interviews with 403 women who had acquired land in 23 Gujarat villages, revealed that while half (48 per cent) were widows who had claimed a share in their husband’s property, 41 per cent were married and had received titles either with a view to claiming particular state announced tax benefits, or for their husbands to escape land ceiling laws. Many did not know they held land titles. Just less than 5 per cent had inherited a share of their natal property, in the absence of male heirs. They were responsible for the care of their parents. Of the women with land titles, only twenty per cent were cultivating their own land –and took decisions on cropping and sale.

 

Fourthly, there are significant differences in women’s rights across Indian states, highlighting the importance of paying serious attention to both cultural and kinship variations, and the political economy imperatives across contexts. Yet, they do not necessarily demonstrate an expected pattern. For example, the difference in landholding size between men and women is the lowest in Uttar Pradesh (UP) despite this state being the patriarchal heartland of India (Figure 1). Given that UP has not yet amended its inheritance and tenancy laws, to allow equal inheritance rights to daughters and sons, we might be led (in the absence of supporting data) to suggest that this apparent gender equality in landholding size might simply reflect attempts to overcome land ceiling laws through the division of property held by the landed elite. West Bengal underwent land reforms under the left party led government, yet women do not seem to have benefited, and appear to confront the highest gender gap in land-holding size. The purpose of land reform was to secure tenancy, rather than ownership rights. It was men, who ploughed the land, who were eligible to be tenants, rather than women, engaged in all other operations.

 

Figure 1.  Average size (in ha) of operational holdings by gender for select States

 

 (Source: Agricensus 2005-2006).

 

Finally, the story that emerges from a study of 504 households across 19 villages in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar (UN Women & RDI, 2011) is that the key problem in women’s ownership is one of recognition and legitimacy. Surprisingly, husbands were largely (85%) supportive of wives having legal rights to own land. Women themselves were less supportive: 40 per cent denied this right. On the other hand, despite supportive husbands, 60 per cent of the women felt that they would be unable to farm their inherited land, due to lack of community recognition. In practical terms, the study found that 70 per cent of land in male-headed households was acquired through inheritance whereas this was the case for only 57 per cent of female headed households. In their case, 29 per cent reported buying their homestead plot.

 

The Women’s land ownership has to been seen from the following basic categories of land : agricultural, homestead and forest. For these categories, the broad lens is that of ownership through inheritance, market purchase and as beneficiary of government land distribution system.

Gender disaggregated data collection and management of such information is a huge challenge.

Group (as in women self help group) and individual land ownership is another area 

Reporting and monitoring has to be in a bottom to up approach in a convergent manner

Presently information on access and ownership on gender disaggregated basis is not available.  But survey like the NFHS 4 have used the indicator “Women owning a house and/or land (alone or jointly with others)” (%). The result for Odisha is 63.5 % . One needs to understand the survey and the implication of the result. 

It is good to read such insightful discussion on the subject of women and land rights. Salience of women land rights and ‘rights to tree tenure’ are crucial not only for combating hunger, nutrition, and alleviating poverty. But also, to have better preparedness to the changing climate. Frequency of floods and droughts have increased due to climate variability, and given the income inequality in South Asia, women may bear greater impact of unsecure tenurial rights and access to resources than other groups. Insecure tenure has been associated with deforestation and forest degradation. Women land rights are closely tied to the discussion on sustainable landscapes restoration and governance. Given that landscape restoration can aid in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) goals Targets 1, 2, 10, 13 and 15 set under SDGs. Any strategy on achievement of landscape restoration need to ensure that actors and networks at the meso level are conscious of structural inequalities while devising any landscape restoration strategy. Gender consideration could result in more effective restoration planning and women and tenure should also be thought of in context of right over trees, as these rights are location specific and may vary depending on existing patriarchal relations.

There is paucity of reliable gender disaggregated data sets on women land ownership. For instance, the agriculture census on land ownership portrays the operational rights and not ground reality. Furthermore, of the women working in the agricultural sector, very small are land owners, and there is a need to capture this. One way to capture this could be create an open source forum where organisations working on the subject would be willing to share these data sets, and a national data base could be created.

Additionally, there should be a push for collecting gender disaggregated data. Furthermore, we know that Individual Forest Rights (IFR) claims under ‘Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (hereafter FRA) are supposed to be joint titles. However, the implementation of FRA has been poor and there isn’t clarity on how many joint titles are recognised. Need to develop a mechanism to track and monitor recognition of claims under FRA.

The approval of the seventy Sustainable Development goals, SDGs in the 2016 marked the transition from the Millennium Development Goals and reignited a call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The universal goals have been applauded as being more progressive than the Millennium Development Goals with what is defined as a robust consultative process that resulted to the agreed Goal. The targets set for the indicators provide a clear guideline for countries to monitor and report on the progress of realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.

Among the goals with indicator on securing women land rights are Goal one: Ending poverty and Goal five on gender equality and empowerment for women and girls. Under goal one, indicator 1.4.2 looks at the proportion of total adult population with secure tenure rights to land, with legally recognized documentation and who perceive their rights to land as secure, by sex and by type of tenure. This indicator goes beyond equating secure tenure to titling or land registration to acknowledging perception of ownership to land as critical in the conversation of secure tenure for women. This further appreciates the dynamics of different land tenure systems that may secure for women with or without titling. Landesa’s undated report on Gender and Land argues that conceptually, it is common for property rights to be likened to a bundle of sticks, with each stick representing a different right—the right to access, transfer, control, lease, bequeath, exclude, receive income, own, use, or collect resources. Secure tenure for women ideally then must include all the bundles of rights that go beyond legal recognition and the over emphasis on land titling.

SDG goal two targets to end hunger achieve food security, improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.  Specifically, the goal envisages doubling the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment by 2030. This by all standards is an expression of good intentions that needed to be accompanied by defined indicators.

Despite the fact that the other goals may not have defined indicators on land rights, studies have shown compelling correlation between land rights and good health, quality education, reducing inequality, climate action, sustainable cities among other goals has been proved.  A study by Landesa shows that children whose mothers own land are up to 33 per cent less likely to be severely underweight and Families where women own land devote more of their budget to education[1]

Miggiano et al, 2013 argue that Women with insecure land rights have low bargaining power within the household and less ability to access other resources. They are more vulnerable to poverty, ill-health, and food shortages

In India, the Constitution, 1949 like many other Constitutions in the world guarantees the fundamental rights to all citizens for equal treatment under law and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex (arts. 14-15). The commitment to gender equality in India is further demonstrated by the ratifying the Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1993. Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa shows that having provisions enshrined in law is one thing, and having them implemented to ensure realization of women’s land rights in practice is never automatic.  A study released Sunday by United Nations Women India and Landesa, 2011 found that despite the changes to inheritance laws, women rarely inherit the land that has sustained them and that they have sustained. The study analyzed the impact of the amendments to the inheritance law done in 2005 to ensure that daughters enjoyed equal rights to inheritance and found that the law seems to be having little impact.

Addressing ownership of land for women in India needs to appreciate the different dynamics and layers that shape ownership of land; religion, marital status, kinship rules, tribal status among others. For women to enjoy access, control and ownership of their land, we must address retrogress social and cultural practices, gaps in existing legal and policy frameworks, slow and in some cases lack of implementation of existing policies that secure women’s land rights and lastly, we must address the data gap on land rights for women. These are key in achieving SDGs but more importantly in addressing the inequality and for women’s empowerment.

Reading through the above contributions and discussions, it becomes evident that so much is already happening worldwide with regards to gender mainstreaming in land rights programmes. Yet it also becomes evident that not enough is being done and that we still have a long way to go until women worldwide have equal access to land.

The question I often ask myself lately is why are we not making bigger and faster strides towards achieving tenure security for ALL? There is so much accumulated knowledge in our land rights community describing the importance of secure tenure for women. We have whole trainings seminars and workshops dedicated towards this topic, special websites and books and campaigns. This online discussion is even more evidence about the importance the land governance community places on women’s rights.

I dare to make a controversial statement that often the gap already starts in programme design and how we formulate gender indicators. Going through various documents related to gender and land, I recently came to the conclusion that we tend to fill studies with background information and analyses on the importance of gender, yet when it comes to concrete actions and evidence-based impacts, the pages start to thin out. If you are a planning officer responsible for writing new project proposals and determining indicators, you often want to refer back to concrete lessons learnt to integrate those in the project design. Yet too often, we cannot find the concrete examples, and then refer back to generic gender indicators, e.g. “40% of women partake in trainings”. If using the helpful categorisation of “reach, benefit, empower” by Sophie Theis and Ruth Meinzen-Dick, gender indicators tend to only fall in the “reach” category (highly recommended read: http://www.ifpri.org/blog/reach-benefit-or-empower-clarifying-gender-strategies-development-projects).

So once we have gender properly embedded in project designs, the next hurdle is monitoring of gender indicators. This is also very important for tracking progress of the SDGs, which has been mentioned in previous contributions. This requires gender-consciousness during budgeting and planning from the start. Easier said than done, of course.

My wish for us all is to be more aware of gender during programme design and planning phases, with the aim of generating concrete evidence-based examples of impacts- which can then be used for programme designs in the future, in India and elsewhere. With proper evidence at hand, it is easier to motivate colleagues to address gender in their programmes and it helps to advocate for women’s access to land in political dialogues. I hope and believe that we can move closer towards “empowerment”, if we have more concrete gender examples at hand when planning land rights programme.

Five participants intervened in the Day 9 of the online discussion, including three international and two Indian. While the focus of the phase is on Q3 around present status of WLR in India vis-à-vis available datasets, the discussants also brought in  larger issues around WLR into the discusson.

Dr Nitya Rao of University of East Anglia,  highlights the limitations and implications of open access Agricultural Census datasets. She points to the applicability of data to gender of head of households and its inability to capture the land access of a majority of rural women, who live in male-headed households. Women’s land access, she felt, should also be looked at in terms of the increase in the number of marginal holdings and overall growing inequality of land ownership. Out of the marginal land owners the percentage of women’s land ownership is minuscule. Quoting a WGWLO study (2004), she shares various ways in which women might acquire their land rights, while also underlining the universal difficulties they encounter in operationalizing them. This study found that out of the total number of women who inherited land, only 20% were cultivating their own land and were taking their own decisions.  Taking the examples of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, she shows an interesting aspect of lack of an expected pattern in women’s land rights. This highlights the importance of paying serious attention to both cultural and kinship variations, and the political economy imperatives across contexts. Giving an example of another a study of 504 households across 19 villages in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar (UN Women & RDI, 2011), she says that the key problem in women’s ownership is one of recognition and legitimacy.

Dr Amrita Patel, a gender-policy advisor from Odisha, stresses on the need for making available gender disaggregated data across agriculture, homestead and forest land. She points out that while women land ownership can happen through inheritance, market purchase and as beneficiary of government land distribution system, there has been no reporting of gender disaggregated data around these. She felt that the reporting and monitoring has to be a bottom-up approach and done in a convergent manner. While information on access and ownership on gender disaggregated basis is not available, numbers coming out of survey like the NFHS 4 doesn’t match the field realities, she highlighted.

Ruchika Singh of WRI-India, brings in the sidelined yet important rights around  ‘tree tenure’  and says with women’s land rights, it is crucial to combating hunger, nutrition, and alleviating poverty and to have better preparedness to the changing climate. In the climate change contexts, she opines that women may bear greater impact of unsecure tenurial rights and access to resources than other groups. Women land rights, she feels, are closely tied to the discussion on sustainable landscapes restoration and governance. Paucity of reliable gender disaggregated data sets on women land ownership has been a challenge and often quoted agriculture census data only portrays the operational rights and not ownership or ground reality.  Among the women farmers, she underlins that very small number are land owners. One way to capture this, she suggests, could be to create an open source forum where organisations working on the subject would be willing to share these data sets, to build up a national data base. Similarly, poor implementation of FRA and lack of clarity on number of joint titles, she says, need to be tracked and monitored in case of recognition of claims under FRA. Given that landscape restoration can aid in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) goals Targets 1, 2, 10, 13 and 15 set under SDGs, she recommends that any strategy on achievement of landscape restoration needs to ensure that actors and networks at the meso level are conscious of structural inequalities

Ms. Eileen Wakesho, WLR Advisor, Oxfam-GB highlights Goal one: Ending poverty and Goal five on gender equality and empowerment for women and girls, as having indicator on securing women land rights. She appreciates the indicator 1.4.2, as it goes beyond equating secure tenure to titling or land registration to acknowledging perception of ownership to land as critical in the conversation of secure tenure for women. She feels that it further appreciates the dynamics of different land tenure systems that may secure for women with or without titling.  Quoting Landesa’s undated report on Gender and Land, she  gives example of  bundle of rights and goes on to say that secure tenure for women must include all the bundles of rights that go beyond legal recognition and the over emphasis on land titling.Indian Constitution, like many other Constitutions in the world, she explains, guarantees the fundamental rights to all citizens for equal treatment under law and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex (arts. 14-15). The commitment to gender equality in India is further demonstrated by the ratifying the Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1993. However, drawing evidence from sub-Saharan Africa, she argues that having provisions enshrined in law doesn’t always ensure realization of women’s land rights in practices.  To address ownership of land for women, she suggests that India needs to appreciate the different dynamics and layers that shape ownership of land; religion, marital status, kinship rules, tribal status among others. For women to enjoy access, control and ownership of their land, she advocates to address retrogress social and cultural practices, gaps in existing legal and policy frameworks, slow and in some cases lack of implementation of existing policies that secure women’s land rights. Importantly, the data gap on land rights for women also must be addresed to achieve SDGs and more importantly in addressing the inequality and for women’s empowerment.

Ms Elke Matthaei, Advisor-GIZ appreciates the evidences and gaps that the discussion has brought in from around the world with regards to gender mainstreaming in land rights programmes and the long road that also has to be travelled until women have equal access to land, respectively. Reading through the above contributions and discussions, she wonders why bigger and faster strides are not made towards achieving tenure security for ALL? Challenging the policy makers and programme designers, she says that often the gap already starts in programme design in the way gender indicators are formulated. Going through various documents related to gender and land, she feels that more focus is given to background information and analyses on the importance of gender, than to concrete actions and evidence-based impacts. In most programs, she points out that the gender indicators tend to only fall in the “reach” category, using the helpful categorisation of “reach, benefit, empower” by Sophie Theis and Ruth Meinzen-Dick.  To track progress of the SDGs, gender-consciousness is required, she suggests, during budgeting and planning from the start. She calls for awareness of gender during programme design and planning phases, with the aim of generating concrete evidence-based examples of impacts- which can then be used for programme designs in the future, in India and elsewhere. With proper evidence at hand, it is easier to motivate colleagues to address gender in their programmes and it helps to advocate for women’s access to land in political dialogues. This she believes and hopes can move us closer towards “empowerment”, if we have more concrete gender examples at hand when planning land rights programme.

Question # 4. How can India address its commitment towards reporting of the SDG related women land rights indicators? How can the country and states progress in reporting and monitoring gender equitable land tenure governance in the context of SDG?

At a basic minimum, India needs to invest in collecting sex-disaggregated data at regular intervals. There are several options. The AIDIS conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation is one option. It collects a detailed inventory of all assets held by the household. It is quite easy to add a question on which household member owns the asset. In addition to land, it can provide individual incidence for both men and women for assets and yield information on gender gaps as well. The biggest disadvantage with AIDIS is that it is not a multi-topic survey. Thus, the question of land rights cannot be linked to management of land, decision making in other domains or any other outcome of interest. The alternative option is NFHS, which since the last round has incorporated questions on individual level land ownership to both men and women. An advantage of NFHS is that questions on land ownership can be linked to other outcomes; decision making in the household, women’s mobility, health outcomes and so on. However, NFHS is not collected regularly (10 years between NFHS 3 and 4) and has not yet been made public even though data collection was completed more than two years ago. AIDIS is also a decadal survey, but seems less affected by the political climate. The Agricultural Census collects information on operational holdings and this can be modified to include ownership rights as well. But unit level data must be easily accessible to the public for analysis as opposed to the cumbersome tabulation requests that must be made online.

 

One could look to international initiatives and see what India can learn from their experiences. One such initiative, The Evidence and Data for Gender Equality (EDGE) project attempts to systematically address the data and methodological lacuna in the domain of sex-disaggregated data. EDGE seeks to accelerate the production of internationally comparable sex-disaggregated data on health, education, asset ownership, employment and entrepreneurship through two related activities: (i) creation of an online gender data portal to share existing data on education, health and employment, and (ii) develop methodological guidelines for collecting sex-disaggregated asset ownership and entrepreneurship data. The EDGE initiative has partnered with national statistical agencies in several countries to pilot sex disaggregated data collection. For a start, NITI Aayog could pilot sex disaggregated data collection at state levels before fielding a national survey.

 

 

How can India address its commitment towards reporting of SDG indicators related to women's land rights? How can the country and states progress in reporting and monitoring gender equitable land tenure governance in the context of the SDGs?

It is agreed that six SDG Goals (1, 2, 5, 10, 15, 16) have indicators reflecting status of women land rights, however there is low level of awareness and sensitivity among officials at various levels to report along these lines. 

In many cases (like the monthly or annual progress reports of the Revenue Department) either the monitoring formats do not report gender segregated data or there are no indicators to reflect equitable distribution of land.

Are  existing datasets adequate? What kind of data is more appropriate and how it can be collected:

In India, some of the current datasets that could indicate on the status of women land rights could be Agriculture Census Data, NSSO data, Census data, NFHS and monthly monitoring reports of Revenue Department. But, as has been experienced by researchers these datasets either do not capture gender related data or do not specifically reflect the indicators specified under each SDG  

When we talk about equitable gender rights, it becomes a multi-dimensional approach involving departments such as Revenue, Women & Child Development, Panchyati Raj, Education, Health, etc. Also since most of the states have a Planning and Convergence Department, I would suggest that gender related indicators ought to be monitored by such department. 

Best regards,

 

Siba

 

 

 

#1. How important is women land rights and equitable land tenure for combating hunger, nutrition and alleviating poverty and for furthering sustainable development in India?

a. What are the evidences in India around contributions of gender-equitable land tenure to development indicators around food security, income, education etc.?

There are lesser evidence of gender equitable land tenure in India as traditionally the lands are inherited by the male members of the family. The land titles to only women or jointly with male counterpart have only happened in case of land transactions where government authorities granted lands to landless (for example settling land under OPLE or OGLS in Odisha or issue of FRA land titles etc.) or in case of private land transactions happened in form of sale and purchase from one party to other party. In the latter case the inclusion of name of the women in land registration is a choice of the purchaser.

Although there has not been any specific outcome or impact correlating hunger or poverty alleviation, however, recent study on distressed migration in the Mohana block of Odisha confers that the incidences of migration is low in case of women holding land title either alone or jointly with male counterparts. The report says only 1.35% of the families migrated where the agriculture land are in the names of women as compared to 75.76% of families migrated where the land titles are in the name of only male. The incidence of migration in case of joint title holders are 8.75%. Using this as a proxy indicator for farm production and income and correlate it with migration, it can be perceived that where women holding land titles have a better farm productivity leading to better income and reduced distressed migration.

b. Is there any evidence of negative impact of gender-inequitable land tenure on agricultural production and food security?

In Indian context land has been seen as a matter of dignity and identity. There are several conflicts over land which are being reported in newspapers and the backdrop of these conflict are inequitable land tenure both in rural and urban context.

Alternatively, there are impacts on agriculture production and food security, which have been increased over the years through a gender equitable land tenure. The impact assessment report 2017 of IFAD supported programme in Odisha for tribal empowerment has mentioned that there is a significant difference in farm production and food security scenario in pre and post land settlement context. The farm production and food security has significantly increased post land settlement in the project villages. This has resulted in increasing investment in natural resources by the families holding land and also increased their participation in governance.

India’s national programme for rural employment i.e. Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guenette Scheme (MGNREGS) provides unskilled rural employment for 100 days to a family. Apart from the rural employment the programme also aims in creating livelihood assets for poor families to augment better farm productivity and income. The scheme invests about 50% of its resources in developing private land. With a gender-inequitable land tenure, all these large scale investment by national government excludes a larger section of the population. However, a policy measure by the government can increase the gender equitable land tenure by putting a condition that the investment can only be done in private lands if the land is hold by women or jointly.

c. Does gender-equitable tenure matter to Indian women in rural and urban India? What have been their perceptions of tenure security?

The gender equitable tenure provides an identity to women and can reduce the domestic violence over women in both rural and urban context. Access to various entitlements in India are linked with land title and in absence of it many families particularly the women headed or single women families are deprived to access those benefits.

Rural women's lack of land rights also limits their access to other livelihood assets that flow from the control of land. It is important to push for new methods for addressing their land disenfranchisement. All possible alternative approaches towards achieving gender equity in land rights should be worked on. New avenues by which women are most likely to become landowners should be thought of and strategies developed. Incentivising registration of land in women’s name through differential stamp duties was a great step forward to negotiate stubborn patriarchy in Haryana and elsewhere.

Government schemes are another important pathway towards helping more rural women get some land in their name. Schemes such as Indira Awaas Yojana/PMAY stipulated that the house should be in women’s name but on ground it was seen that while the house was sanctioned in the wife/women’s name, it was generally on the land belonging to the husband/the man. How the house could be separated from the land and whether she would be able to effectively claim her rights to the house in case of patriarchal risk is quite questionable.

Individual works on private lands under MGNREGA (the largest rights based employment programme in the world) has a huge potential for women getting some of the family land in their names. MGNREGA offers to eligible households (SC/ST/BPL/IAY/Land reform beneficiary/Marginal and small farmer households) suitable works such as infrastructure for livestock, dug wells, plantation works and so on with the objective of these becoming income generating assets in future. Under the programme, for getting a suitable work related to agriculture the household has to have some land. In the case of landless households owning only a house, they may be provided with livestock related works.

At present, under MGNREGA women are reserved one-third employment but there are no such reservations with respect to works on individual land. Meaning it does not specify by gender the ownership of land. The magnitude of number of these works is huge with a quarter of all completed works under MGNREGA being on individual lands (clubbed under category B works of MGNREGA it is 1.36 million works till date). This is an area to strategically move for furthering women’s land rights and take up a case for some reservation for at least 33% of category B works to be on lands in the name of women. With countries having to work towards tailoring policies to meet the SDGs there could be a great possibility here

 

3. What is the present status of women’s land rights in India? How is it reported? What are the available potential administrative and open datasets that is or can be used to monitor women’s land rights in India and in its states?

The status of women’s land rights is not entirely encouraging with almost no state or national mandate to ensure land to women. Unfortunately, the discussion on WLR starts and ends with joint titling of homestead parcels that are mostly state government land distribution programmes. Women don’t inherit ancestral land so easily though both Hindu Succession Act, 2005 and the state procedural laws make substantial provisions for women becoming either coparceners or co-owners. Moreover, since family lands are hardly joint titled, the number and percentage of land under women’s ownership is negligible. None of the state governments, except for states like Odisha that has drafted a State Girls and Women’s Policy in 2014, makes any specific provision for land to women, especially single women. The recently drafted National Women’s Policy does specify land ownership as key to empowerment but it just remains as a wishful thinking as the Land Resources Department, Ministry of Rural Development, is yet to send out any directive to states for provisioning land to women on the plea that land is a state subject and the central government does not have the legislative competence to send out directives to states.

Besides, the State Revenue/Land Resources Department continues to be the last bastion of patriarchy making no concrete efforts to ensure women own land. While there are elaborate provisions for women inheriting family land, the property partition process is so awfully male dominated that the so-called equality created in the partition laws by making the entire partition ‘consensual’ is laughable.  Besides, the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 does not apply to tribals and inheritance is predominantly governed by their customary practices restricting land to women. A tribal woman does not inherit her husband’s land unless she has son. In states like Jharkhand, while the women don’t inherit private agricultural land, government distributed land is also not joint titled.

There is huge dearth of gender segregated data at the state level to monitor women’s land ownership. While the state governments have been asked to generate and store gender disaggregated data, none has made any substantial progress with regard to datasets. However, in the last half a decade with more and more focused work on WLR, governments are motivated to either introduce participatory processes to assess the status of women’s land rights or creatively use the ICDS workers to identify the extent of landlessness within women, though such initiatives are rare, sporadic, small and negligible.  

 

Rural women's lack of land rights also limits their access to other livelihood assets that flow from the control of land. It is important to push for new methods for addressing their land disenfranchisement. All possible alternative approaches towards achieving gender equity in land rights should be worked on. New avenues by which women are most likely to become landowners should be thought of and strategies developed. Incentivising registration of land in women’s name through differential stamp duties was a great step forward to negotiate stubborn patriarchy in Haryana and elsewhere.

Government schemes are another important pathway towards helping more rural women get some land in their name. Schemes such as Indira Awaas Yojana/PMAY stipulated that the house should be in women’s name but on ground it was seen that while the house was sanctioned in the wife/women’s name, it was generally on the land belonging to the husband/the man. How the house could be separated from the land and whether she would be able to effectively claim her rights to the house in case of patriarchal risk is quite questionable.

Individual works on private lands under MGNREGA (the largest rights based employment programme in the world) has a huge potential for women getting some of the family land in their names. MGNREGA offers to eligible households (SC/ST/BPL/IAY/Land reform beneficiary/Marginal and small farmer households) suitable works such as infrastructure for livestock, dug wells, plantation works and so on with the objective of these becoming income generating assets in future. Under the programme, for getting a suitable work related to agriculture the household has to have some land. In the case of landless households owning only a house, they may be provided with livestock related works.

At present, under MGNREGA women are reserved one-third employment but there are no such reservations with respect to works on individual land. Meaning it does not specify by gender the ownership of land. The magnitude of number of these works is huge with a quarter of all completed works under MGNREGA being on individual lands (clubbed under category B works of MGNREGA it is 1.36 million works till date). This is an area to strategically move for furthering women’s land rights and take up a case for some reservation for at least 33% of category B works to be on lands in the name of women. With countries having to work towards tailoring policies to meet the SDGs there could be a great possibility here

 

 

The focus of the discussion for this phase is suggesting strategies and recommendations wherein India can show its commitments for gender equality in context of SDGs. On the tenth day of the on-line debate on WLR we have received total five responses, two of which are on  developing and monitoring indicators relevant for reporting the country’s commitment on gender equality against the Sustainable Development Goals whereas one is sharing opinions on WLR and other is discussing on various strategies to encourage WLR.

 

Discussing the first question, Pravanjan Mohapatra says that gender equitable land tenure in India is less evident and joint ownership of woman and man existed only while government distributed land to the families. Indicating through data sets he says that when women own land there are lesser chances of out migration and hence, opportunity to enhance land productivity and income flow in household increases. He adds that in the Indian context, land ownership enhances dignity and identity, mentioning The impact assessment report 2017 of IFAD supported programme in Odisha for tribal empowerment, he says that there is a significant difference in farm production and food security scenario in pre and post land settlement context. The farm production and food security has significantly increased post land settlement in the project villages, which resulted in increasing investment in natural resources by the families holding land and also increased their participation in governance. Sighting example of MGNREGA, he recommends that a policy measure by the government can increase the gender equitable land tenure by putting a condition that the investment can only be done in private lands if the land is hold by women or jointly. Reiterating that the officials are under the great influence of patriarchal norms, there have been hardly any efforts in facilitating WLR. Bringing in the fact of cultural diversity, he points out at the HSAA which agains limits WLR for tribal and other such communities whose customary rights are different.

 

Suggesting strategies to support WLR, Dimple says that there has to have differentially favouring government resolutions which enhances women’s land rights. She further adds that government programs and schemes should also promote women’s land ownership alike in housing schemes where the house allotted is either singly owned by women and in joint ownership along with her husband. In agreement with the recommendation of Mr. Mohapatra, Dimple says that there should be some reservation for at least 33% of category B works to be on lands in the name of women under MGNREGA.

 

Sanjoy makes his comments on the question three and points out that the status of women’s land ownership in India is very gloomy and shares examples of various laws and policies where WLR are negligible. He adds that there is a mention of women’s land rights in the recently drafted national policy on women as one of key empowerment indicator but it remains on paper since the DoLR and MoRD have yet not sent any directives facilitating WLRs.

 

Hema suggests that NSSO conducts All India Debt and Investment Survey - AIDIS at a regular interval and in that it collects detailed inventory on assets held by households, she says, it would be easy to introduce a field/question on household member asset ownership, which will provide individual asset ownership status. However, indicating its limitation, she said that AIDIS is not multi-topic survey and therefore it may not link other relevant questions like land management, decision making etc. which are critical aspects of WLR. Showing another alternate, she says that NFHS has included in its last round question on individual land ownership and can also suggest on other outcome such as women’s mobility and health outcome but it’s periodicity is erratic and says that there is gap of ten years between NFHS 3 & 4. She recommends that in Agriculture census, its imperative to collect information on land ownership and unit level data should have an easy access in the public domain. Suggesting international initiatives on collecting sex disaggregated data on different indicators, like EDGE, she says it suggests how to create an online gender data portal as well as the methodological guidelines to collect this data.

 

Sibabrata in his comments says that the officials needs to be sensitized on reporting of such sex disaggregated data under various SDGs. Alike others, he says that it’s imperative to indicate gender disaggregated data through different national level surveys conducted in India however its equally important that in doing so the relevant government department converge and come up with micro and macro level data collection, sharing and monitoring system on gender equality.

 

Warmly

 

Sejal Dave

Land rights are imperative for women which enhances her respect in the family and society, if woman owns land, her household food security is ensured and we also through santhan promote women’s awareness on their land rights, supports them in collecting/making relevant documents, guide and handhold with the revenue and legal processes and ensure that the woman owns land. For this, we have developed better relations with the local administration and visit him time and again to update on problems that we face and also seek guidance on difficult cases, we have also a very active Nyay samiti (legal committee) which settles different conflicts along with the ones on land and property related. As we have been working in this area the community and the local administration considers credibility of our work and at times we get cases of property and VAW from as far off areas as Mumbai where the daughter of this area is being married off.

 

We face lot of problem while ensuring land rights for the de-notified Miyana community since their land records have a note which says land under promulgation, it’s at the time of regularizing land post independence, when the local govt. written of many such land pattas under promulgation; we have surveyed around 685 land pattas/families whose land has this notice, we made presentations at different level starting from village panchayat to block to district to state, lastly when we presented this issue to the then CM of Gujarat, Anandiben, we saw hope but nothing happened then after. Its due to this note on the land record that none of these families get registered on I-Kisan portal which is mandatory in Gujarat to access any govt. agriculture program.

 

Once the land is made in the name of woman, we support her by teaching various methods of organic and mixed farming to ensure food security. So far we have supported more than 600 women for inheritance and legal procedure women’s land rights out of which only 20 have owned land in Malia Miyana block. 

It is undeniable that the role of women plays importantly in our family context when we think simply about it.  In my opinion, hence, women should have land rights and tenure.  For this, I want to explains about this issue with three fundamental reasons.  First, women have the best knowledge and management skills in cooking, financing and caring the whole family rather than men.  Second, it is observed that some women work not only the responsibility of the family but also to get the extra income such as gardening, planting and so on.  Third, most of women are faithful on their husbands even though some husbands are unfaithful.  In this day, for instance, some married men want to cheat new girls when they are away from their families and homes.  Furthermore, it is also important to see traditional and cultural practices in a society.  To be honest, I have not too much knowledge about the tradition and culture of India.  However, in Myanmar, most of the women have not land rights because land is related with religious doctrine and kingship system.  This is also a big issue for women who are from restricted religious society.  However, in some societies, women have land rights and tenure.  It is thought that if women can access the lands for the agricultural production purpose, the food will secure for the whole family and it will also positively help for educational development in the family.  In addition, when we see from broader sense, political and social structure adjustment is needed for this issue (women’s land rights and tenure).  As discourse is important in this situation, international agencies and NGOs should join and help local people to demonstrate land rights for the women.  Moreover, negotiation with state is also important for this issue.  

Land Surveyor 

Data and statistics could be great tools to establish the status quo of women in any society. Systemic and periodic data collection and analysis by the government or other large agencies would enable establishing cases where women have been strategically neglected in statistics and merely represented as disaggregated data. 

 

Women are statistical invisible in the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), National Family Health Surveys (NFHS) and other large scale surveys conducted in India.  However, data on women's ownership of assets is a case where acute unavailability of even basic information persists. The Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), 2011 has a strata on ownership of land by women headed households, but, there is no information on the owner; whether it is singly or jointly owned. 

The current data collection practice by our government agencies, use household as unit of data collection for datasets like land and asset ownership or indebtedness and, disaggregate the data only in terms of sex of the head of household, which is insufficient to analyse the stake/ rights of an individual over these assets. Similarly, the data on housing are collected by the Census of India and NSSO Surveys on other aspects of housing but not ownership over the house. Thus, the data adequacy are lacking in the existing data available to analyse WLR.

Data collection through a mainstream channel is always better and authentic to be accepted by various stakeholders including Governments. Thus there is a need to shift the unit of enumeration from household to individual and integrate gender disaggregation at the metadata level in the data collection tools of NSSO, NFHS and Census.

During 2015, Finscope Survey was hosted by DFID and conducted in four Indian states of Madya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha for analysing the financial inclusion status of individuals NOT Households for the first time in India. The study was designed and implemented by FinMark Trust (FMT), South Africa as part of the Poorest State Inclusive Growth (PSIG) programme being implemented by SIDBI in India. The study revealed that there has been a significant gap in financial inclusion at the household level and individual level. Thus, it is important to move down to an individual both women and men to enumerate data on various domain whether it is financial inclusion or indebtedness, land ownership, housing etc.  

 

It is important to strengthen Women’s Land Rights.

The marginal nature of Women’s Land rights is a historical problem in most developing countries. As per IFAD report, Women’s constitutional rights are frequently jeopardized by conflicting laws or longstanding and retrogressive traditional practices.[i] For example, in most of our African traditional set ups, women rarely have full rights to land, they are seen as secondary claimants through male relatives. As further emphasized by Kenya Land Alliance, despite Women’s role in the agricultural sector which contributes significantly to the economy, traditional practices have limited their decision-making power and control over land.[ii]

Strong evidence posits women’s access to and control over land as an important tool for raising women’s status and influence within households and communities. Economically and socially empowered rural women have a high likelihood of directly impacting farm productivity and improving overall household welfare. [iii]A linear focus on tenure rights for Women’s land rights, for example, is the magic bullet that will help address social inequity and poverty.

 

[i] IFAD, gender and Land Rights, Economic and Social Perspectives, Policy brief 8 2010.

[ii] Kenya Land Alliance, a review of Women’s property rights as a result of Land reforms in Kenya, 2017

[iii] ibid

There are four participants partcipated in the debate on its 10th day: two international from Myanmar and Kenya and two from India, Odish and Gujarat. Their responses varied from importanace of WLR to alienation of communities to issues of data.

Ratanben Makwana a women farmer leader from the Malia region of the little Ran of Kuchchh in Gujarat brings to the discussion her perspective on women’s land rights for vulnerable and de-notified communities. She says that land rights are imperative for women and enhances her respect in the family and society. If woman owns land, her household food security is ensured.  At the field level Ratanben has been promoting awareness among women regarding their land rights, supports them in collecting/making relevant documents, guide and handhold with the revenue and legal processes and ensure that the woman owns land. She has helped them in improving relations with local administration by visiting them frequently to update on issues encountered, seek their guidance on difficult cases. With her assistance a legal committee or Nyay Samiti has been formed which settles different conflicts along with the ones on land and property resulted in developing credibility for the women organisation. While there are successes stories, there are also issues around a de-notified community due to lack of land records. Her institution, a community based organization, has been collected evidences and advocated.

 

Stephen from Ta And (Paling) which is located in Self-administrative Zone, Northern Shan State of Myanmar, has responded to the question 1 regarding importance of women's land rights and equitable land tenure for combating hunger, nutrition and alleviating poverty, highlights that women do play an important role in our family context. In his opinion, women should have land rights and tenure, because of  three fundamental reasons. First, women have the best knowledge and management skills in cooking, financing and caring the whole family. Second, it is observed that some women work more, take family responsibilities but also get extra income through gardening, planting etc.  Third, most women remain faithful to their husbands.  Furthermore, it is also important to see traditional and cultural practices in a society.  Accepting that he has not too much knowledge about the tradition and culture of India, he underlines that most of the women have not land rights in Mynamar, because land is related with religious doctrine and kingship system.  This is also a big issue for women who are from restricted religious society.  However, in some societies, women have land rights and tenure.  It is thought that if women can access the lands for the agricultural production purpose, the food will secure for the whole family and it will also positively help for educational development in the family.  In addition, when we see from broader sense, political and social adjustment is needed for this issue (women’s land rights and tenure).  As discourse is important in this situation, international agencies and NGOs should join and help local people to demonstrate land rights for the women.  Moreover, negotiation with state is also important for this issue.  

 

Pravanjan Mohapatra, researcher and development practitioner in India, stresses on the need to address statistical invisibility of women in India. He says that data and statistics could be great tools to establish the status quo of women in any society. Systemic and periodic data collection and analysis by the government or other large agencies would enable establishing cases where women have been strategically neglected in statistics. Women are statistical invisible in the national level surveys like National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), National Family Health Surveys (NFHS) and other large scale surveys conducted in India as they have concentrated mostly on women headed householdds.  There is a need to shift the unit of enumeration from household to individual and integrate gender disaggregation at the metadata level in the data collection tools of NSSO, NFHS and Census. He adds that a SIDBI study on financial inclusion revealed that there has been a significant gap in financial inclusion at the household and individual level. Thus, it is important to move down to an individual both women and men to enumerate data on various domain whether it is financial inclusion or indebtedness, land ownership, housing etc.  

 

Kenya land alliance stresses on the importance of strengthening women’s land rights. They quote an IFAD report, which indicates women’s constitutional rights are frequently jeopardized by conflicting laws or longstanding and retrogressive traditional practices. Most of African traditional set ups, women rarely have full rights to land. They are seen as secondary claimants through male relatives. As further emphasized by Kenya Land Alliance, despite women’s role in the agricultural sector which contributes significantly to the economy, traditional practices have limited their decision-making power and control over land. Strong evidence suggests women’s access to and control over land as an important tool for raising women’s status and influence within households and communities. Economically and socially empowered rural women have a high likelihood of directly impacting farm productivity and improving overall household welfare. A linear focus on tenure rights for Women’s land rights, for example, is the magic bullet that will help address social inequity and poverty.

As per the 12th five year plan of Govt of India under chapter on Women’s Agency and Child Rights, where new land is being distributed or regularized, individual titles in women’s names only rather than joint titles with husbands could be considered. States may also want to consider group titles to women’s groups though this would require changes in tenancy laws to allow leasing of land to women’s groups as well as recognize such groups as a valid category of landowners. As many states have already given joint pattas on government land in the past, and this trend may continue, such pattas would be made partitionable, so that the wives, if they so desire, can have half the share of land in their single names. The present reality is that after divorce or abandonment, wives are left without any share in such land.

The 2005 Hindu Succession Amendment Act (HSAA) brings all agricultural land on par with other property. This makes Hindu women’s land inheritance rights legally equal to men’s across states, overriding any inconsistent State laws. Various pro- visions need to be reviewed and strategically acted upon. This includes devolution of a woman’s property in the same manner as a man’s, restricting the right to will to prohibit disinheritance of wives and daughters, protecting women’s right to property by eliminating forced coercion aimed at women relinquishing their shares, and ensuring that HSAA overrides State laws related to agricultural land. In addition, the Ministry of Women and Child Development in collaboration with the Department of Land Resources, should start intense monitoring of the progress in implementation of HSAA, and ensure its speedy implementation. 

4. How can India address its commitment towards reporting of the SDG related women land rights indicators? How can the country and states progress in reporting and monitoring gender equitable land tenure governance in the context of SDG?

a. Are the existing datasets adequate? What kind of data is more appropriate and how it can be collected?
b. What shall be the institutional mechanism for such monitoring? Who should all be involved? What will be the levels and frequencies of such monitoring? Will it be adequate to just report as per SDG or link the information to decision making? What could be the mechanism?
c. What are the good practices? What kind of policy learning do they provide?

Three out of the seventeen SDGs- SDG 1[i], SDG 2[ii] and SDG 5[iii], ratified by Indian Government, have dedicated indicators linked to the women land rights. Although the target 2.3[iv] of SDG 2 acknowledges achievement of the equal land rights of women significant for achieving doubling the agriculture productivity, it is the against target 1.4[v] and 5.a[vi] of SDG 1 and ess of various progressive legislations granting equal land ownership to women like Hindu Success55 SDG 5 that requires India to collect gender-disaggregated land ownership data to report back achievement of Sustainable Development Goal(SDG). Indicators under target 1.4 and 5a that demand collection of gender-disaggregated data are:

1.4.2 Proportion of total adult population with secure tenure rights to land, with legally recognized documentation and who perceive their rights to land as secure, by sex and by type of tenure;

5.a.1 (a) Proportion of total agricultural population with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land, by sex; and (b) share of women among owners or rights-bearers of agricultural land, by type of tenure;

5.a.2 Proportion of countries where the legal framework (including customary law) guarantees women’s equal rights to land ownership and/or control.

 

Despite its significance, the lack of any nationally representative gender-disaggregated data on women land ownership shows the lack of policy maker's attention to this crucial piece of information which could help to monitor and track the achievement of various progressive legislations granting equal land ownership to women, for Example-Hindu Succession Amendment Act 2005.

 

The Planning Commission[vii] recognised that the land ownership is an instrument for reducing political and social gender inequities, and gender disaggregated data availability through data digitisation would able to ensure achievement of the goal. Hence, it proposed to all the state governments to maintain gender disaggregated land data, separately from the joint land title, on enabling the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) to monitor the progress of the implementation of Hindu Succession Amendment Act 2005. In August 2014, a directive was sent out by the then Secretary, Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, to the Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories, for capturing the gender-disaggregated land ownership data.

 

Digitization of the land records, initiated by the Union Government for effective and efficient management and maintenance of the land records, could have been a greater tool for providing gender-disaggregated data on women's land ownership and promoting women's land literacy. However, despite dedicating special code to capture gender-disaggregated data, code 14, following the state land records manual; however, initial technical report of the DILRMP programme by the Department of Land Resource (DoLR) found that none of the states captured gender-disaggregated data and even the state like Manipur did not form the code for capturing gender[viii]. The software used in the land digitisation programme can be updated/flexible enough to capture the nuanced land ownership data including women land ownership. In the Western regional consultation[ix] in Pune, Ms. Leena Mehendale, Ex-settlement commissioner said that the software used for the land record digitisation is not open-ended software that restricts the incorporation of the new parameters and limits the data mining.

 

Hence, the suggestions for effective data collection, setting up proper mechanisms in place for monitoring the land data to inform the policy making for gender equality and equity are-

 

Data Collection Mechanism- The software of land digitisation programme should capture nuanced details of the land operation system. Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development should collect gender-disaggregated land data for private land, public land distribution, leased land and forest land separately. Secure land rights give absolute rights to women that empower the women to take control of her life which operational land ownership like leased land, non-partitionable joint land ownership can achieve, hence important to capture the differential land ownership separately.

Monitoring Mechanism- The DoLR should set clear timelines and monitoring mechanisms to follow up the land data collection method. A committee should be formed taking representatives from the departments of rural development, land resource department, agriculture, and women and child development department to track the gender disaggregated land data collection, tracking the progress of implementation of different land laws ensuring women secure land ownership and enhancing departmental budget allocation for increasing women farmers' access to agriculture services and schemes. While the department of land resources will be accountable for the collection and updating of the gender disaggregated data, periodic review of the data will be helpful for the women and child development department to access the progress of the land laws like Hindu Succession Amendment Act 2005. The agriculture department would use the data for accessing the outreach of the different government inputs, credits, services and schemes to women farmers.

Capacity Building and Creating Infrastructure at the Grassroots for proper data collection, validation and data monitoring- Firstly, government officials engaged in data collection to data entry and mining should be trained on gender sensitisation, social and cultural norms restricting women land ownership etc. for understanding the systematic, social and cultural barriers limiting land ownership and reporting. Underprivileged community, specifically women, should be trained on how to read and understand the collected land data so that instead of becoming a mechanical process it will able to empower women to understand their rights and entitlements. In the regional consultations, women farmers demanded the gender support centers which would help women farmers to claim their land rights, support the Department of Land Resource in collecting and validating the land data and empower the women through digital literacy.  

 

Some challenges to prepare MIS on gender-disaggregated data expressed by revenue officers at the district levels were-

How and what proportion of the joint land should be documented in the name of the spouses? The state government programmes on joint land titles distribution do not have any instruction and the land is non-partitionable.

As most of the joint lands distributed under different state government programmes are non-partitionable, dividing the land on the paper will not be helpful for the women. A land claim process for joint land should be prescribed to help land division in case of divorce, separation.

 

1. How important are women land rights and equitable land tenure for combating hunger, nutrition and alleviating poverty and for furthering sustainable development in India?

a. What are the evidence in India around contributions of gender-equitable land tenure to development indicators around food security, income, education etc.?
b. Is there any evidence of negative impact of gender-inequitable land tenure on agricultural production and food security?
c. Does gender-equitable tenure matter to Indian women in rural and urban India? What have been their perceptions of tenure security?

a. Women land rights and equitable land tenure, as various studies from the worldwide suggested, have significant positive correlation with the reduction in the hunger, nutrition and poverty through increased productivity, more investment on developmental issues like health and education of the children at the household level, and more thrust on the nutritious food cultivation and consumption. Most researchers suggested that the women's secure land ownership would increase her access to other agriculture productive inputs like seed, credit, technology, and information and will increase the women's farm productivity. FAO's study linking women's equitable land tenure, agriculture productivity and reduction in the malnutrition level have been one of the most extensively used research. Besides, several studies conducted in Africa, specifically in Ethiopia, Ghana, suggested that increased secure land ownership of women significantly contribute towards increased agricultural productivity and food security. Most studies that have tried to directly measure the impact of gender inequalities on agricultural efficiency come from Sub-Saharan Africa. These studies find that total efficiency would be improved if resources were allocated more equitably across men and women’s plots (e.g. Udry 1996; Saito 1994). Further, women’s plots have smaller yields than men’s plots, but if differences in agricultural inputs are controlled for the differences disappear. For example, Udry (1996) finds that the average household output of crops would increase by 6 percent in Burkina Faso if fertilizer and other inputs were distributed more evenly across individual household members’ plots. However, there is only very limited evidence from South Asia, specifically India, to support this notion.  In Kerala, Kumar(1978 as cited in Agarwal 2002) found that women’s home gardens were associated with better child nutrition. This, certainly, indicates that homestead in the name of women would able to increase the higher probability of the kitchen gardening at the household and increased consumption of nutritious food. 

Similarly, various anthropological studies conducted in many parts of the world from the sub-Saharan Africa to South America, suggests that there is a higher probability that the income comes from the women would be spent on children's health, education and nutrition while men tend to spend more income on his personal luxury. After the Bodhgaya land movement in India, small agricultural loans were made available to those who had received land. Women used the loans to buy bullocks, while many men wanted to spend it on alcohol (Alaka and Chetna 1987).  A study conducted in Nepal found a strong statistically significant positive correlation between women land ownership and children's education. However, In India number of primary research studies exploring the linkage between the women's equitable land tenure and increased agriculture productivity, reduction in the malnutrition level is required to give a push to the women land ownership policy advocacy. In addition, empirical evidence would also be required, in India, to establish through the women's contribution to the food production sector. According to agriculture census 2010-11, in most of the states, a number of men cultivators and agriculture laborers supersedes the number of women cultivators and agriculture laborers, and the statistics of cultivators and agriculture labourers do not represent the amount of the work done by the men and women in the agriculture sector.

More than 500 women from 22 states attended the regional and national consultations organised by UN Women, MAKAAM and NCW who shared that equitable land tenure is essential for them for increased access to different agriculture inputs, government subsidies, programmes, and training. Some of the benefits of the secure land ownership shared by the women farmers were-

Increased access to agriculture inputs increases their agriculture productivity and reduces their dependence on their spouses. In the context of increased rural migration and feminisation of agriculture, access to productive input on time is non-negotiable for women farmers that effect, substantially, their farm productivity.

Land ownership provides social recognition and increases their decision making capacity not only in the private sphere but also in the public sphere including Panchayats. Increased participation in the public meeting would build their negotiation powers in the government agriculture and land development programme designing and implementation, and in other processes like land acquisition, resettlement, and rehabilitation process. 

In the context of rural distress and increasing farmer suicides, secure land tenure is quite important for a woman as that provide her source of livelihood and income generation after the death of her husband, and also protect her from other social evils like trafficking.

Some of the other observations about women's perception of the gender- equitable land tenure are-

Most married women prefer to claim their right on marital land rather than on the parental land as they contribute significantly for the development of and production from the marital land.

According to many women farmers attended the regional consultations, right over the marital land should be automatically transferred to women at the marriage and the rights should not be depended on the interest and whims of the family, relatives or the religious heads. Women complained of forceful eviction from the marital house after the death of the husband and depended on the in-laws wish to get the land for them and their children. Many Muslim women in the Eastern regional consultation in Bihar shared that they depended on religious leaders' decision to get their rights on the property granted by shariat.

Land tenure security, as suggested by women, should make their consent compulsory during the land selling to increase their decision making and ownership over the land. Further, the required consent process should be legal as many women forced to release their land claim under social and family pressure.

 

 

[i] SDG 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

[ii] SDG 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

[iii] SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

[iv] 2.3 By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment

[v] 1.4 by 2030 ensure that all men and women, particularly the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership, and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology, and financial services including microfinance

[vi] 5.a undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance, and natural resources in accordance with national laws

[vii] http://planningcommission.gov.in/index_oldpc.php

[viii] http://dolr.nic.in/lrc_codes_list_finaldraft300908reviseda.pdf

[ix] MAKAAM (Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch), UN Women, and NCW (National Commission for Women), collectively, organised five regional and one national consultation to build capacities of the key stakeholders on women farmers rights and entitlements and bring out the voice, needs and concerns of the women farmers from the ground to prepare a comprehensive framework addressing gender gaps in laws, institutions, policies, and programmes in the agricultural and rural developmental sector. 

Question # 4. How can India address its commitment towards reporting of the SDG related women land rights indicators? How can the country and states progress in reporting and monitoring gender equitable land tenure governance in the context of SDG?

 

The framework provided by the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) is one effective method of measuring success in relation to land rights and food security and satisfies measurement of SDG on women land right. The following indicators are contained in the treaty

Regulated spatial planning that promotes gender-sensitive policies (20.2), taking account of gendered uses of land, forests and fisheries (20.3)

States should consider customary and local mechanisms to provide fair, reliable and gender sensitive ways of promptly resolving disputes over tenure rights to land, fisheries and forests. (25.3) Special procedure for restitution be put in place for widows (25.6)

When documenting existing tenure rights, it should be done as best as possible in a gender-sensitive manner, including oral histories and testimonies. (25.4)

Valuation of land should strive to take into account non-market values such as social, cultural, religious, spiritual and environmental values where applicable. (18.2)

Beneficiaries of land redistribution schemes should be clearly defined, including women (15.5) States should, with participation of involved parties, monitor and evaluate outcomes of redistribution programmes, including their impact on access to land and food security of both men and women. (15.10)

States should develop gender-sensitive policies for restitution (14.4)

States should establish strategies for readjustment approaches that fit local requirements, and be socially, economically and environmentally sustainable and gender-sensitive.  (13.5)

The process of establishing informal tenure over land should be participatory and gender-sensitive (10.1) (9.10)

Effective participation of all members, men, women and youth, in collective tenure systems. (9.2)

Where states own or control natural resources, states should allocate and monitor the  outcome of such allocation programmes, including the differentiated impact on food security and poverty eradication (8.11)

 States should ensure that implementing agencies and the judiciary have financial and other forms of capacity to implement policies and laws in a timely, effective and gender-sensitive manner (6.1) States should encourage seeking regular feedback through surveys, focus groups etc to raise standards and improve delivery of services, to meet expectations and to satisfy new needs. (6.7)

States should consider the particular obstacles faced by women and girls with regard to tenure and associated tenure rights, and take measures to ensure that legal and policy frameworks provide adequate protection for women and that laws that recognize women’s tenure rights are implemented and enforced. States should ensure that women can legally enter into contracts concerning tenure rights on the basis of equality with men and should strive to provide legal services and other assistance to enable women to defend their tenure interests. (5.4)

 In particular, States should ensure equal tenure rights for women and men, including the right to inherit and bequeath these rights. (4.6)

Gender equality: Ensure the equal right of women and men to the enjoyment of all human rights, while acknowledging differences between women and men and taking specific measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality when necessary. States should ensure that women and girls have equal tenure rights and access to land, fisheries and forests independent of their civil and marital status. (3B.4)

 States should ensure political, legal and organisational frameworks are non-discriminatory and promote social and gender equality (5.3)

 

 

Question 1:

It seems hardly a question of debate whether women having equitable rights and ownership over land contributes positively to the overall wellbeing and development of communities. As all participants here have stated and as globally influential individuals and organizations have repeatedly emphasized, women having control and ownership of land and other productive resources is good for their status in the household and community, for their economic independence, and for overall food and nutritional security of their family. As was argued by Ulka Mahajan of Sarvahara Jan Andolan at a recent MAKAAM western regional consultation on women farmers held in Pune in May 2017, women tend to view land as a support system for their families that needs to be sustained and nurtured for the long-term, as opposed to viewing it solely as a commodity that can be sold for short-term monetary gains.

Question 2:

While my knowledge in this field is raw, from my academic and the little professional experience I’ve had, I’ve learned that two challenges stand out in realizing equitable land tenure for women. One: While many laws have surfaced over the years for WLR as participants in this discussion have noted, lack of awareness and understanding at the community level of these laws and of the procedures to go about in securing land rights for women is a huge barrier. Many incredible civil society organizations are making great efforts at raising awareness and are educating and training locals - especially local women - in learning about legal provisions and the procedures for obtaining land rights. The Swabhoomi-Kendra paralegals and Ratanben Makwana of Malia Mahila Shakti Sangathan, both mentioned above, are such examples of women that have been trained in legal matters related to land rights and are thus empowered to educate and guide other women in securing their land rights. While interning with Gujarat-based ANANDI recently, I met Adivasi woman farmer Resham Nayak from a village in Panchmahaal of eastern Gujarat. She was one of 6 daughters of her parents (who have no sons), and having heard stories of women being stripped of their land by relatives or in-laws after the deaths of their parents or husbands, Resham and her parents used to worry about the fate of Resham and her sisters in the absence of their parents. But when Resham and her mother attended a meeting held by a local women’s sangathan, they became aware about their legal right to have their family land in the name of the sisters and Resham’s mother. With the support of her father in whose name the family land was, Resham was able to get joint ownership rights for herself, her sisters and her mother. It’s in this way that awareness of laws and the empowerment to engage with authority spreads. These are good practices by civil society organizations. However, it should also be the responsibility of administrative officials to proactively campaign to create awareness of laws and make them accessible to women.

The second and most profound challenge to WLR, as stressed by most participants here, is the entrenched patriarchal mindset and traditions at the level of the community and often at the level of implementing officials. Gender sensitization seamlessly woven throughout the training and education of administrative officials is crucial to make administrators more willing, empathetic and proactive. One strategy—while it may seem simplistic—may be to use the tool of storytelling to share stories like that of Resham through community-level platforms to highlight the practical benefits of WLR in a way that convinces the unconvinced.  Can influential local men who are supportive of gender equitable practices be recruited as allies by local government or civil society organizations to advocate in their communities for issues like WLR? The most important point of intervention, however, may be enhanced gender sensitive education (whether formal or informal) starting at the level of primary schools so next generations of girls and boys can more easily adapt a gender equitable worldview. Changing mindsets always takes time, but the flow of dialogue and conversation around the topic must be constant.

I think that Niyati raises a very important point here around the need to address social norms and mindsets. There are of course strategies that can be put in place to encourage people to recognize the benefits of securing the land and resource rights of women and girls but this does take time. Having male champions is one such strategy and yes, storytelling is another.  However, this is an area where more research is certainly needed. As I've been thinking about this issue quite alot lately, I wanted to share some resources that might be of interest:  

http://sites.nationalacademies.org/DBASSE/BBCSS/Lessons_Learned/index.htm

http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-psych-010814-015013 (need library subscription to access)

https://oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/what-do-aid-agencies-need-to-do-to-getting-s...

https://blogs.worldbank.org/publicsphere/role-social-norms-achieving-beh...

And finally, for those interested in this topic, this on-line course might be of interest: (it just started) https://www.coursera.org/learn/norms

 

Best to all and thanks for a very informative discussion!

In the Sustainable Development Goals women’s land rights have got a prominent mention which is a significant gain. But the government even within its laws, policies and programmes been conservative towards women’s participation in the true sense, whatever voices have been incorporated is not adequate. It is obvious as we have struggled not only in gathering information / data on status of women’s land ownership, we do not have adequate evidences to claim that women’s land rights have resulted in particular outcome covering the an indicator. Inadequate data is due to simple lack of intent to create such records.  India can only address the commitment to SDGs by developing specific indicators for capturing gender segregated data, both quantitative (through large surveys) and qualitative data (through documentation of stories of women who have received land and property). Qualitative data can be gathers by Women and Child Development Department partnership with Revenue department, but specific budget needs to be allocated by the government for ensuring the India and its states have Gender desegregated data.

If we refer to the Gendering Human Development Report by Ministry of Women and Child Development Department, it concludes that overall the low scores attained nation-wide on the ‘Power over Economic Resources’ dimension draw attention to the severe gender disparities that exist with regard to access to resources and assets and the historical discrimination faced by women in access to land, livestock, credit and other productive resources, despite their unpaid and unrecognised contribution to agriculture and farm and non-farm family based economic activities. This requires special attention as access to resources can enhance opportunities and lead to enhancement of capabilities, thereby leading to higher levels of gender empowerment as well as development. Human and gender development indices can be used as tools to re-allocate resources for programmes and schemes designed to correct gender gaps at all levels of governance through monitoring and tracking progress regularly and ensuring implementation; provide access to assets and income earning opportunities for women such as providing right to work to all citizens; provide access to work at decent wages to enable exit from poverty and thereby reduce gender disparities in work and standard of living and so on. It is time and government has committed threfore, 'special' attention is required for women’s rights .

Dear All

The current debate on women land rights in contributing towards the SDGs is very pertinent and has generated interesting response from various participants. I am hopeful that the recommendations and experiences would be adopted by local agencies, NGOs and Government at various levels in moving towards a more equitable situation.

In this whole debate, it goes without saying that an equitable women land rights would have definite impact on household poverty, nutrition and education levels of children. This is well established by experiences from various countries as well as documented evidence. When we talk of policy measures, however, there has to be clear cut strategy and distinct approaches in case of rural women, tribal indigenous women and urban women, since they exist in very different socio-economic and cultural context. The current policy measures such as land distribution programmers, joint title, reduction in stamp duty, etc. are blanket measures and do not address the peculiar constraints faced by women. 

Lastly, in order to come any closer to the SD Goals, there ought to be adequate awareness and sensitivity at different levels and objective assessments on the impacts of policy measures.  

Thanking you,

That women's rights to land must be recognised and upheld has been established by now. We need laws to be implemented in full, so women can inherit property, cultivate lands as owners and derive all the benefits that ownership brings.

    As others have pointed out, land rights leads to greater empowerment, economic independence, better food security and improved living standards for the entire family.

    A lesser known and discussed effect is on domestic violence. Studies elsewhere have established a clear link between land rights and domestic violence, with women vulnerable to and experiencing more abuse when claiming their share of a property.

    India recorded 327,394 reports of violence against women, including cruelty by husbands, in 2015, up more than 40 percent from 2011, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau.

    While there are no separate data on how many of these cases are related to property, it is a safe bet to say it must be a significant number.

    Fearing violence, women often do not assert their claim to property. But this only makes more vulnerable, as they then live in constant fear of being thrown out by their brothers, husband or in-laws.

    This must end. The fear of custom, the patriarchy and of upsetting family ties deprives women of their legal rights over land and property, which give them greater stability, confidence and respect in addition to the obvious economic benefits.

    Land rights are essential to ending domestic violence, which is key achieving goal five on gender equality and empowerment for women and girls.

Introduction:

Although there is a lack of systematic collection of country-wide gender-segregated data on land ownership in India, it is apparent that women’s lack of access to land and property presents a serious problem. This is a problem women face not only in this country but globally.

Research shows that “just 1 per cent of the world’s women actually own land” (Realizing Women’s Rights to Land and Other Productive Resources)

A 1991 sample survey of rural widows by Martha Chen, covering seven States in India, found that of the 470 women with landowning fathers, only 13 percent inherited land as daughters. Thus, 87 percent of the surveyed women did not receive their legal due as daughters. There was, however, wide regional variation ranging from 18 percent inheritance by daughters in southern India to only 8 percent in northern India. (Agarwal, Bina. 2002)

 

Women’s access to land and property offers the solution to many of the SDGs such as ending poverty, ending hunger, achieving gender equality, promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and full and productive employment and decent work for all. Yet, universally, women seem to make very slow headway in achieving access to land and property.

 

Most studies on the subject end up by giving suggestions to the government for removal of obstructions in achieving this important objective. There is a need to examine whether the government is indeed the ideal agency to bring about the required reforms. 

                                                     

How do women attain rights in land and property?

 

Three major ways by which women can gain access to land/property are identified as inheritance, transfers made by the state, and the market.

“Of these, inheritance is the most important, since in most countries arable land is largely privatized. In India, 86 percent of arable land is privately held” (Agarwal, Bina.2002) 

 

India primarily follows the traditional patrilineal pattern with matrilineal pockets existing only in a few places, such as northern and central Kerala in the south and Meghalaya in the northeast. (Ibid)

 

“In India, women’s access and rights of ownership over family property (both moveable and immoveable), in the absence of a will, is governed by succession laws based on religion.” (Indian Women's Rights to Property)

 

Prior to 1937, under the Hindu law, women did not have the right to own any property at all. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, (HSA) allowed women to have a share equal to the children in the husband’s property. (Ibid)

The “Muslim Personal Law Shariat (Application) Act of 1937 substantially enhanced Muslim women’s property rights compared with those prevailing under custom.” (Agarwal, Bina.2002) 

An amendment to the HSA in 2005 made “daughters coparceners at par with sons, such that they receive an equal birthright to a share in the natal family’s ancestral property, i.e., parents’ property.” (Indian Women's Rights to Property)

However, ‘land’ being a state subject, the HSA left agricultural land outside its purview. “Hindu women’s inheritance in tenancy land thus depends on state-level tenurial laws, which in most northwestern states specify an order of devolution that strongly favors male agnatic heirs. Women come very low in the order of heirs, as was the case under age-old customs.” (Agarwal, Bina.2002)

Likewise, the Shariat Act of 1937 also excluded all agricultural land from its purview.

 

Since land reforms fall under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution these inequities cannot be challenged on constitutional grounds. Thus, agricultural land, unlike other property, “continues to devolve according to customs, tenurial laws, or other preexisting laws.” (Ibid)

 

 “In both Hindu and Muslim legal systems the regional contrast is also striking. Gender inequality increases as we move from south India northward. Among Hindus, for instance, northwest India is the most gender unequal in relation to women’s claims in both agricultural land and joint family property, while the southern states provide relative legal equality on both counts. Central India falls in-between. The map of women’s legal rights under Muslim law looks rather similar, with a distinct contrast between northwest India and the rest of the country.” (Agarwal, Bina.2002) 

 

State transfers of land have not made any significant dent in customary practices as the state is hesitant to grant rights in the transferred lands solely to women, preferring instead to give joint titles to husbands and wives. Women are granted titles only in the absence of eligible male members in the family.

 

 In so far as purchase of land is concerned the rural land market is not yet well developed making it difficult even for men to easily find procurable land. In the early 1970s a study found that only 1.75 percent of landowning families sold land. Another study in the State of Uttar Pradesh found that over a thirty-year period, extending from the 1950s to the 1980s, only 4.1 percent of agricultural land was sold by owners. (Agarwal, Bina.2002)

Another important factor is that women seldom have the resources to purchase land since economic resources in the family are usually controlled by men.

 

The Government as a Reformer:

The role of the Government as a reformer can be best assessed by examining how it deals with the barriers preventing women from gaining access to land and property.

A major barrier has been identified as inadequate laws of inheritance. The foremost duty of the Central and State governments would apparently be to reform the situation by bringing before Parliament and State Legislatures, respectively, the necessary enabling legislations.

 

In India it is generally perceived that government is motivated to bring about reforms when any one or more of three conditions exist- there is international pressure to reform; political support is likely to expand by bringing in the reform; or there is likelihood of filling state coffers due to the reform. In the case of granting women access to land there is virtually no prospect of enhancing state coffers and, hence, the government is likely to be motivated to initiate reforms only if the first two factors are present.

 

The Central government is more exposed to, and, hence, more likely to initiate reform due to international pressure than are the State governments. Since it is the Central government that makes commitments to various international covenants and Treaties the onus of commitment to certain causes falls on its shoulders and in its bid to project the country as a progressive, democratic state it sometimes initiates reforms that do not emanate from local demands but are imposed on State governments for implementation.

In the case of granting women land rights one would not be too off the mark to say that there has been a great international push for reforms. Several international conventions and bodies have emphasized the need to ensure gender equality as a human right in all spheres including granting of land rights.

Examples of these human rights instruments include The Universal Declaration of Human Rights; The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; The Convention on the Rights of the Child. (Realizing Women’s Rights to Land and Other Productive Resources.)

 

Several international policy instruments, principles, guidelines, recommendations and developmental goals have been laid down which participant countries are expected to follow such as the Platform for Action formulated in  the Fourth World Conference on Women; The Habitat Agenda, adopted at the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements; The International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994); United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and The Plan of Action of the World Food Summit. The General Assembly and other intergovernmental bodies urge States to accord women full and equal rights to land and other property. States adopted the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Lands, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, under the auspices of the FAO Committee on World

Food Security, in May 2012. (Realizing Women’s Rights to Land and Other Productive Resources.)

The SDGs, too, act as an international push for reforms.

 

The Central government is more open to change than State governments also because it is cushioned to some extent from the pressure of traditionalists resisting change, whereas State governments, being ‘nearer to the earth’ cannot afford to ignore them. This is clearly visible from the fact that the HSA has been amended faster than tenancy laws falling under the purview of the State Legislatures. State Governments often hesitate to take the initiative in changing customary laws for fear of backlash at the hustings.

 

Another barrier to women accessing land is the gap between the law and its implementation. The lack of grievance redressal mechanism within the law makes its enforcement weak. For example, there is no effective grievance redressal system for daughters or widows denied their legitimate rights in land. The remedy available is to move a civil suit which is not only cumbersome and expensive but impractical for most women. Where governments are serious about implementing the law the enforcement mechanism is usually in-built in the law such as a Tribunal (for example The Bihar Land Tribunal Act, 2009), an Authority (for example, Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Authority under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013),.or a Commission (for example the Central/State Information Commissions under the Right to Information Act, 2005). If women’s access to land and property are to become a reality some enforcement mechanism has to be built into the law for speedy remedy for non-compliance.

The practice of denying women access to land has a cause-and-effect relationship with a socio-cultural-economic milieu which ensures that it is difficult to reverse the process.  This milieu includes denying women education and control over economic resources, imposing ritual taboos against women ploughing, imposing social restrictions on women’s mobility and enforcing ‘purdah’ or system of seclusion which restricts public interaction and eventually leads to lack of awareness about laws and rights. Imposing the social taboo on parents from seeking help from married daughters, particularly in northwest India, results in the perception that empowering a daughter with property does not bring with it any reciprocal benefit and is, in fact, lost to the natal family. The values imbued in daughters, including by their mothers, include idolization of docility and self-sacrifice, including fore-going property rights in favour of brothers. Girls are taught to look upon brothers as potential saviours after the passing away of the parents in case of unbearable conditions in the husband’s home or in case of desertion or marital breakup. Although this succour eventually proves to be a mirage many women prefer to forgo their rights in their ancestral property to keep doors to their brothers’ home open rather than antagonizing them by claiming a share in the property.

 

The government appears ill-equipped to deal with this socio-cultural-economic milieu. While it can easily ensure passage of legislation, such as Right to Education and the anti-dowry laws, and use media to project rights already bequeathed and thus improve legal literacy and awareness among women, it is difficult to visualize the government as a reformer of these social practices. Even penal clauses in a law will not work where women voluntarily forego their rights. The role of enlightened civil society in reversing public opinion is likely to be far more effectual. Moreover, seldom have rights been handed over on a platter to the deprived; the latter have to be organized into a group that makes a vigorous demand for their rights and digs in its heels to fight for them. The beneficiaries eventually need to present themselves as a group that can influence political outcomes.

 

The question is do women present themselves as such a group?

According to Wikipedia, “within patrilineal communities, there is a strong resistance by men towards endowing women, especially daughters, with rights to land access.” (Women's property rights)

This assumption appears to make women’s land rights a ‘men- versus- women’ issue. If such was the case then women would form a strong vote bank and it would be worth the while for State governments to woo them by introducing the required reforms. However, experience shows that women do not form a block of opinion on the issue. In fact, women seem to have an ambivalent attitude towards land and property ownership. As daughters, young women champion the cause of women inheriting property from their parental homes to gain financial security and status. By the time women are ready to marry off their children their attitude to property changes; they become reluctant to empower daughters with property on the grounds that since they are likely to leave the household after marriage they will ‘take away’ the property to their marital homes. Since women are more likely to stay with their sons in old age they support husbands in willing property only to their sons. Moreover, as mothers-in-law, women may not favour empowering their daughters-in-law by making them co-owners of property. Thus, it is apparent that women enbloc may not support reforms in women’s access to land. In fact, lack of such an alliance among women may be holding back the reform process.

 

An important facet of the socio-cultural-economic milieu is the male-oriented decision-making process within the family. Even if the government  were to help women to access land by bringing in the necessary legislation, by providing mechanisms to ensure the effective implementation of the laws, by transferring state-owned land only in the name of women, by providing subsidized credit to women to enable them to enter the land market and by providing lower rates of Stamp Duty in the case of land registered in the name of women, which many States have already provide for, it is difficult for the government to ensure that women retain bona fide control over the land they get. It has been found that even where women do manage to get land in their names their control over it remains notional.

“The decision making power on use of the land remains firmly in the grip of men – father, brother, husband or father-in-law.” (Indian Women's Rights to Property)

The same phenomenon has been observed in the case of widows inheriting land of their deceased spouses where “—invariably the widow’s name is entered jointly with adult sons, who effectively control the land.” (Agarwal, Bina. 2002)   

Even in the case of state transfers where the ownership is given jointly to husband and wife it is has been observed that is usually the husband who takes effective control of the land.

 

In Conclusion:

In conclusion it may be said that women seem to be wandering between two worlds-that of their parental homes and the other of their marital homes-in both of which there is reluctance to empower them with land ownership, especially where the socio-cultural-economic milieu militates heavily against such empowerment. However, the government is at best a hesitant reformer. Government policies end up mirroring the socio-cultural-economic milieu rather than radically reforming it, especially at the State and village levels. This is very perceptible in the regional variation in gender inequality.

Reforms have come in much faster in the southern States. Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra have amended laws to do away with differential inheritance shares for men and women by including daughters as coparceners. Kerala has abolished joint family property altogether which, under the HSA, permitted sons to have rights by birth but not daughters.  This is largely because the socio-cultural-economic milieu in these States lends itself to reform. (Ibid)

 “South India has the fewest obstacles. Here legal rights are relatively more equal, in-village and close-kin marriage is allowed, there is virtually no purdah, and female labor force participation is medium to high. Northwest India is the area of most difficulty on all these fronts. Northeast and central India come in-between.” (Agarwal, Bina. 2002)

Changing mind-sets is essential to bring about the required reforms for which civil society is better equipped than the government. As pressure groups for change build up the government is likely to see advantage in initiating reforms at ground level. In other words, government usually prefers to sow the seed of reform in soil that has already been made fertile enough to reap political benefits.

 

References:

Agarwal, Bina. (2002)  Are We Not Peasants Too? Land Rights and Women’s Claims in India. The Population Council, Inc. Number 21, 2002 ISSN: 073-6833. University of Chicago. Available at ccc.uchicago/edu/docs/AreWeNotPeasantsToo.pdf. Accessed on 11/9/2017

 

 

Indian Women's Rights to Property: Implementation of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005. (14-03-2014). Available at natural-justice.blogspot.in/2014/03/Indian-Women’s-Rights-To-Property. Accessed on 11/9/2017

 

 Realizing Women’s Rights to Land and Other Productive Resources. (June 2012) Available at www.ohchr.org/documents/publications/realizingwomen’srighttstoland.pdf. Accessed on 11/9/2017]

 

Women's property rights.  (17 February 2017)  Available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women’s_Property_Rights. Accessed on 11/9/17]

 

 

Women’s right to land and other resources for livelihoods are challenged with violence, discrimination, labeling as witch and denial. Feminist organizing with the strategy of Community Resource Centre for Gender Justice also known as Lok Adhikar Kendra[i] (LAK) has been a supportive platform for women’s struggle for rights over resources of water, forest and land.

 

As Goal 5 of the SDG and the targets therein talk about achieving gender equality and empowerment, end all forms of discrimination and eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, I would like to share about ANANDI’s work where the effort is also made to understand psychological violence that is caused with labeling or branding women as witches through the whole process of dispossession of their right.

 

ANANDI uses folk forms and community art forms for building women’s collectives and strengthening them. In 2001 when Devgadh Mahila Sangathan was in its growing years women recorded their struggles including that of establishing “self” in home, society and the larger world.  Challenging inequalities, discrimination and violence were very clearly articulated as their agenda in their Oral history album “Devgadh no Rankar”  in year 2001. A song “Kon kare kheti ne kona name khetar … kone banavya aava niyam re - still dares to question the social norms “who does farming and who owns that land.  This draws attention to the practices that overshadow women despite bearing the burden of producing; making a home and the patriarchal society denies them any right over their homes, children or property.

 

 

The practice of witch-hunting exists in many parts of the country even today. This is the reality that many women have to face in their lives, the reality of being labeled a ‘witch’, of being harassed and tormented, of being a victim of violence, and of being kicked out of the house.[ii]

 

ANANDI’s experience of working on the issue shows that while the socio- economic vulnerabilities of adivasi/ dalit and single women, widows, and those who are destitute and deserted women are high, but in most cases they are also targeted as “witch”. However, our study shows that this violence is inflicted on women irrespective of their marital status.

 

ANANDI recorded women victims and the survivors’ cases for “Aal (Blame)” documentary film in Gujarati and dubbed in Hindi. Among these were women who are married as well. Those who live as “ghar jamai at their parental homes[iii] were branded as witch.

 

In many Adivasi communities, women have greater though not equal rights to land. Efforts to exercise those rights are shaken by the method of declaring the woman a witch and so rob her of her right to the land.

Particularly where the woman is unprotected, a widow or a single woman, there is no dearth of others who would have an eye on the land. They would use the services of the ‘Badva- Bhopa’ men who “authorize” labeling. And these men have sanction by local social, religious and political leaders who want to target the woman through illicit means and practices.

 

In 2014-2015 , the LAK, Nyay Samiti of Women, the Adivasi Kalakar team as community mobilization and education team with folk women leaders and folk artists campaigned in over 100 villages to “STOP” witch hunting practice with the District Police and their Suraksha Setu Societies in 4 tribal districts. “Koi Ben Dakan Nathi” (NO WOMAN IS A WITCH) is a forum theatre performance of these artists encouraging larger community to dialogue on single women’s land rights to break myths, fear, and power around the same. This discussion happens with govt workers, police, teachers, colleague youth, community women, and men and so on. Over 100 performances with police has changed the perspective and discourse in the administrative system. 

 

Survivors recounting such violence  “Balo…balo…dakan kado…Burn her, burn her, get rid of the witch…” (From Gujarati) brings women from other villages to provide support and extend solidarity.

 

“Unche jou Aakash dkhay …niche jou dharti dekhay… What I have for me is the sky above me and the earth, no one to share my sorrow – is a song that describes single women’s position vis a vis right over land and property and their control

 

A woman labeled as witch is often subjected to extreme physical and mental torture – sometimes by her own family, and sometimes by other people in the village.

 

ANANDI’s study of year 2014 based on Police records for year 2011-2013 for 7 blocks of 3 tribal districts of eastern Gujarat and interview further gives some insights on role of police in cases of witch hunting and violence on women.

Only 4 per cent of the total 246 cases were registered as FIR.

28.6 percent women were unable to cultivate their own land due to violence

21.4 per cent women were unable to work on their land due to physical disability caused by the perpetrators

14.3 per cent were forced to migrate out with family for safety and shelter

7.14 per cent had lost control on property including land

 

The fact that cases are heard by the women leaders of DMS at the Lok Adhikar Kendra is not only an indicator of prevalence of violence on women by labeling them as witches, but it also shows that many of the traditional panch continue to exercise their patriarchal norms and use power to dispossess[iv] women of their right to land and resources and disregard their right to equality and dignity.

 

Harsh Mandar,  Karawaan e Mohabaat in Sept 2017:

 

“Our last visit to a family targeted by hate violence in this phase of the Karwan was to a single Dalit woman Dahiben in Dharola village in the tribal Panchmahals district of Gujarat, who has been persecuted as a witch or daakan in Gujarati for a more than a dozen years since her husband died. But this is also the story of a woman who spiritedly fought back, and overcame.

 

When we set out on this journey, we expected to meet families hit by lynching, Dalit atrocities, and communally driven state violence. But our feminist hosts first in Rajasthan and then in Gujarat reminded us that along with religious minorities, Dalits and Adivasis, women, especially single women, continue to be battered by a medieval violence, by being branded as witches.”

 

 

Ways Forward:

Sensitization, mobilisation, influencing and setting accountability of police, the revenue department, media

Shaping public opinion to end violence against women and livelihoods safety to the survivors

Support of women’s collectives, facilities for counseling, shelter and legal

 

 

[i] Block level space for complex and unresolved issues of rights and entitlements of poor and marginalized communities and women.

[ii] Chaturiben Baria is a resident of Ruparel village of Baria block. She is a widow and belongs to the OBC community. In December 2005, she came to the Baria LAK with the complaint that five of her brothers-in-law were harassing her for her share in the family’s agricultural land. They labeled her ‘dakan’ and were not letting her stay at home so she ran to the women’s group for support.

 

Reshamben Bariya of Ankli village (Baria block, Dahod district) was widowed eight years ago and she now lives with her two small children. Her brother-in-law was eyeing the land that had been her husband’s share. He went to her house, chased her out and called her a ‘dakan’. He said, “Leave this place immediately. There’s no work for you here anymore.”

 

[iii] Shardaben is a thirty two year old woman from Khanpatla village. She and her husband Bhupat live with Sharda’s mother to look after her. This practice of ‘ghar jamai’ (son-in-law at home) is fairly common when people do not have sons; their daughter and son-in-law stay with them. Terabhai and his wife Chuniben resented this because they were eyeing the land belonging to Sharda’s mother that she and Bhupat tilled. When Chuni had some mental health problems, her husband immediately pounced on Sharda, called her a ‘dakan’ and said that she had turned the ‘evil eye’ on Chuni and was responsible for her illness. When the case came to DMS, the federation leaders helped them to deal with the problem by calling a ‘panch’

 

[iv] Vejliben Patel, a resident of Nadatod village (Baria block, Dahod district) was attacked by four of her brothers-in-law who were greedy for her share of agricultural land. They called her a ‘dakan’, beat her up and tortured her. She made a complaint at the police station but there has been no follow up on the case.

 

 

Interestingly we received around 10 responses from a journalist, two GO representatives, a land tenure expert, an academician, two explorer on different development agendas and three development practitioners, during the last two days of this online discussion on WLR.

Vandana Jena, having experience of being in Indian administration system, made a commendable comment by saying that states should consider giving group titles to women’s groups in which the tenancy laws need to be amended for allowing land leasing to women’s group and recognise these groups as a valid category of landowners. Additionally she says that even the joint pattas given while distributing government land could be made partitionable so that, if the wife desires to own this land singly, she can. She reiterates that through HSAA, not only daughters have got coparceners rights in the family agriculture land and property but various other provisions need to be reviewed strategically and in that suggests devolution of a woman’s property in the same manner as a man’s, restricting the right to will to prohibit disinheritance of wives and daughters, protecting WLR & property rights by eliminating forced coercion and ensuring that HSAA overrides State laws related to agricultural land.

With 38 years of experience in working with the State and Central government as an IAS, Ms. Rita Sinha discusses different aspects inhibiting WLR in great details; narrating government role as a reformist in supporting WLR she critically examines three aspects: government is motivated for reform when there is international pressure, political support is likely to expand and thirdly there is likelihood of filling state coffers by bringing in reforms. She further adds that by facilitating WLR there is no prospect for the govt. to enhance coffers and hence, only two earlier discussed conditions work in the country currently.  She makes her argument saying that the central government is more exposed to and hence likely for newer initiatives due to international pressure compared with the state govt. Since it is the Central government that makes commitments to various international covenants and Treaties the onus of commitment to certain causes falls on its shoulders and in its bid to project the country as a progressive, democratic state it sometimes initiates reforms that do not emanate from local demands but are imposed on State governments for implementation. In the case of granting WLR one would not be too off the mark to say that there has been a great international push for reforms. Several international conventions and bodies have emphasized the need to ensure gender equality as a human right in all spheres including granting of land rights. Several international policy instruments, principles, guidelines, recommendations and developmental goals have been laid down which participant countries are expected to follow, NFSA and SDGs act as such push for reforms. Sharing very important insight, she says that the Central government is more open to change than State governments because it is cushioned to some extent from the pressure of traditionalists resisting change, whereas State governments, being ‘nearer to the earth’ cannot afford to ignore them. This is clearly visible from the fact that the HSA has been amended faster than tenancy laws falling under the purview of the State Legislatures. State Governments often hesitate to take the initiative in changing customary laws for fear of backlash at the hustings.

Discussing the law implementation gaps in facilitating WLR she says that the lack of grievance redressal mechanism makes it enforcement weak. If women’s access to land and property are to become a reality some enforcement mechanism has to be built into the law for speedy remedy for non-compliance. Unleashing other aspects in the context of patriarchal norms, she further says that the practice of denying women access to land has a cause-and-effect relationship with a socio-cultural-economic milieu which includes denying women education and control over economic resources, imposing ritual taboos against women ploughing, imposing social restrictions on women’s mobility and enforcing ‘purdah’ or system of seclusion which restricts public interaction and eventually leads to lack of awareness about laws and rights, ensures that it is difficult to reverse the process. Discussing strategies as to what will work and help WLR she says that the government appears ill-equipped to deal with this socio-cultural-economic milieu. While it can easily ensure passage of legislation, it is difficult to visualize the government as a reformer of these social practices. Even penal clauses in a law will not work where women voluntarily forego their rights. The role of enlightened civil society in reversing public opinion is likely to be far more effectual, seldom have rights been handed over on a platter to the deprived; the latter have to be organized into a group that makes a vigorous demand for their rights and digs in its heels to fight for them. The beneficiaries eventually need to present themselves as a group that can influence political outcomes.

Mentioning the framework provided by the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT), Ms. Chamu says that it is one effective method of measuring success in relation to land rights and food security and satisfies measurement of SDG on WLR.  She mentions various indicators suggested in the treaty and emphasises that the State should ensure WLR by taking measures in changing land tenures, working towards eliminating patriarchal mindset and coming up with relevant resolutions to well implement laws.

Sabita in her article mentions very clearly about the various SDGs that supports WLR and indicates that in August 2014, a directive was sent out by the then Secretary, Department of Land Resources, MoRD, GoI, to the Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories, for capturing the gender-disaggregated land ownership data. And digitization of the land records, initiated by the Union Government for effective and efficient management and maintenance of the land records, could have been a greater tool for providing gender-disaggregated data on WLR - especially ownership status . However, despite dedicating special code to capture gender-disaggregated data, code 14, following the state land records manual; however, initial technical report of the DILRMP programme by the DoLR found that none of the states captured gender-disaggregated data . The software used in the land digitisation programme can be updated/flexible enough to capture the nuanced land ownership data including women land ownership. In the Western regional consultation of MAKAAM held in Pune, Ms. Leena Mehendale, Ex-settlement commissioner said that the software used for the land record digitisation is not open-ended software that restricts the incorporation of the new parameters and limits the data mining. And hence, she has provided valid suggestions on data recording in details on data collection mechanisms, monitoring, capacity building and creating infrastructure for data collection, validation and monitoring. Mentioning the voices from grassroots from one of consultations held with women farmers, she reiterates that right over the marital land should be automatically transferred to women at the marriage and the rights should not be depended on the interest and whims of the family, relatives or the religious heads. Land tenure security, as suggested by women, should make their consent compulsory during the land selling to increase their decision making and ownership over the land. Further, the required consent process should be legal as many women forced to release their land claim under social and family pressure.

In line with Sabita, Sonali discusses that the SDGs have prominent mention of WLR the government even within its laws, policies and programmes been conservative towards women’s participation in the true sense, whatever voices have been incorporated is not adequate and reiterates need to have gender desegregated data on women’s land ownership.

While GO representatives have suggested systems and mechanisms hindering and supportive WLR, Niyati, an explorer in this subject shares her experience as to how community women trained in various laws are vital in realizing women’s land ownership along with the local women’s collectives who extend support in social constraints. Karol in conformity with Niyati ruther adds that such social strategies needs to be devised and executed as per the local context and says that male champions is one such strategies. However, she says that research in this area is need of the hour.

Rina, a journalist indicates the relationship between land and property rights of women and violence against women (VAW) and quotes NCRB data of incidents of VAWs, she says that India recorded 3,27,394 reports of violence against women, including cruelty by husbands, in 2015, up more than 40 percent from 2011, while there are no separate data on how many of these cases are related to property. Fearing violence, women often do not assert their claim to property. But this only makes more vulnerable, as they then live in constant fear of being thrown out by their brothers, husband or in-laws. Land rights are essential to ending domestic violence, which is key achieving goal five on gender equality and empowerment for women and girls.

Neeta Hardikar, a very senior development practitioner in consonance with Rina says that women from Dalit, Adivasi community and those who are single especially branded as ‘witch’ so as to snatch away the rightful land/ property she would own. In following this practice she says, the community use the services of the ‘Badva- Bhopa’ men who “authorize” labeling. And these men have sanction by local social, religious and political leaders who want to target the woman through illicit means and practices. Discussing her experience of working with ANANDI and Devgadh Mahila Sangathan, she says that the sangathan member use lot of folk art forms like songs and theatre in raising community awareness and that has brought some positive results. Mentioning their efforts on spreading awareness on this issue, they tied up with different 3 stakeholders, the NGO, local CBO and the Police and did performances on “Koi Ben Dakan Nathi” (NO WOMAN IS A WITCH) in 4 tribal districts. Sighting ANANDI’s study of the year 2014 based on Police records for year 2011-2013 for 7 blocks of 3 tribal districts of eastern Gujarat she indicates some insights on role of police in cases of witch hunting and violence on women. The study revealed that only 4 per cent of the total 246 cases were registered as FIR, 28.6 percent women were unable to cultivate their own land due to violence, 21.4 per cent women were unable to work on their land due to physical disability caused by the perpetrators, 14.3 per cent were forced to out migrate with family for safety and shelter and 7.14 per cent had lost control on property including land. Suggesting way forward, she says that much needs to be done: sensitization, mobilisation, influencing and setting accountability of police, the revenue department, media, shaping public opinion to end VAW and livelihoods safety to the violence survivors and much more.

Warmly,

Sejal Dave