Women’s Property Rights in India
Property rights for women in India have evolved after a lot of a continuing
struggle between progressive factors and status quoist. Property rights of women
all around the globe and especially in India have been very inequitable and
prejudiced. Host to various faiths, India has struggled to enforce a
standardized civil code. Each religious culture therefore continues to be
governed by its respective personal laws in multiple matters. As a result, no
uniform body of property rights exist in the whole of India.
The Hindu law school of Mitakashara acknowledges a distinction between inherited
and self-acquired lands. It also recognizes the name coparcenary
individual. A coparcenary is a civil entity. It consists of three generations of
male family heirs. Each male member at the time of birth, within three
generations, becomes a coparcenary member. This implies that no individual's
share of the ancestral property can be calculated. Earlier, under the prior
Hindu Law, Streedhan was the only property that was granted to a widow and it
was her absolute right.
Until 1937, Muslims in India were governed by the customary law, which was very
unfair towards women. After the Shariyat Act of 1937, Muslims in India came to
be governed by Muslim personal law in their personal affairs, including property
rights, as it rebuilt personal law instead of custom. With the passage of time,
new Islamic principles were developed. It created both men and women as heirs to
property and gave women half the share of the land.
The property rights for Zoroastrian religion, have been just per se but again
with gender biases like if a widow of a predeceased son died without raising a
family, the widow would get no rights in property. Christian women’s share in
property is guided by Indian Succession Act 1925. If the Husband died, the wife
would get one third of the share while giving two third to the children. i
Amendment of the Hindu Succession Act
The Supreme Court has recently ruled that daughters will have an equal right in
the property irrespective of the fact that the father was alive at the time of
amendment or not. This three judgement bench was headed by Justice Arun Mishra
where he held that no daughter should be deprived of her right to equality and
should get an equal share under section 6 of the Act. ‘Daughter is always a
loving daughter for the rest of their life. A son is a son till he is married.
The daughter shall remain a coparcener throughout life, irrespective of whether
her father is alive or not.’ ii
In an undivided property, the one who gets equally is known as a coparcener.
This landmark judgement held that that these rights are available to daughters
of alive coparceners, irrespective of the time when they were born and as of on
9 September 2005.iii The amendment made it clear that the novel rights granted
by the judiciary, would not give the option to re-access the alienation of
ancestral by pre-existing coparceners.
The centre also declared that coparcenary
was birth as well as a legal right of all daughters. This judgement was
successful in putting the last nail on the male supremacy of Ancestral Hindu
Property. The discriminatory practise was rectified by the supreme court and
gave way to equality of sexes by way of promoting India’s modern and progressive
Why are property rights important for women?
- How is this Different from the 2005 Amendment?
The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 was a pivotal reform since it dealt with the
property rights, which can be said to be the main idea behind equality and
gender empowerment. Initially, the indigenous draft attempted to do away with
coparcenary right but this decision was vehemently opposed during the
The act that was amended in 2005, gave daughters the right equally in their
ancestral property but it did not have a retrospective effect and coparcenary
aspect is a birth right. Furthermore, the daughters could have their share
of assets only if the father was alive at the time of the amendment. The
supreme court held in 2018 that a daughter would be a coparcener since birth
but she will also have to share equal liabilities.
- Shortcomings of the Amendment
Although salubrious results were obtained after the amendment, here is a
critical analysis of the Hindu Succession Act:
The amendment did not completely fulfil its role. The amendment retains article
15 that becomes a despicable flaw as it blemishes the issue of equality between
genders and empowerment of women. This amendment looks at women not as
individual beings but as a dependent of a man i.e either as a daughter of a
father, wife of a husband etc. This way, it compromises on a woman’s self-
identity and individuality.
The above mentioned amendment excluded daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law etc and
throws light only on daughters per se.
This judgement was a step closer to achieving equality but, there are various
lacune and its implementation has not been fully plausible so it has led to
- How does property right abuse affect women?
Some consequences on property right abuses on women in India:
Women are treated as dependents of their male counterparts. Usually, women do
not get their share equally in property which makes them to struggle
financially. Since women are dependent on the male households for getting any
right in property, it makes them a weaker subject and often they are looked down
upon. The priority is always given to sons and women have to face the brunt of
the patriarchal society by facing discrimination and household violence.
Property rights give women an increased bargaining power in society. They are
considered self-sufficient as they get economic supremacy. Property rights
confer upon them the required social protection and their views are heard both
inside and outside their households. Children take care of parents, if parents
retain control of their productive assets and enjoy property rights.
Positive and equal property rights give women the essential economy whether they
live with their parents or with their husbands. If they do not have access to
property rights, they rely fully on their male counterparts and their household.
Their other activities remain invisible and unaddressed and unrecognized.
Why do Women have to always ‘Fight’ for their rights?
‘You can tell the condition of the nation by looking at the status of its
women’ -Jawaharlal Nehru.vi
The position of women in India is weak. The status of women in general is
considered to be at a subordinate juncture when compared to men. The equality in
property rights have been made retrospective now after so many amendments. The
evils like dowry which have prevailed in the Indian culture since ancient times,
are still prevalent.
Men are considered capable of running a household but when
women are considered, a second thought pops up. Men get their lion’s share in
the ancestral property but when women claim these rights, they have to fight
long court battles. Are women not humans? Because, these are very well human
rights guaranteed to every individual.
The Indian societies consider that a boy is a boon to the society and his birth
is celebrated and idolised. Whereas women are seen as a liability and their
lives are shaped by the centuries-old traditions. Men are seen as assets and
independent individuals, capable of carrying forward the family line and
efficient enough to be the sole bread earner. Women are distressed as a
liability who are believed to be dependent on men, emotionally and economically.
This happens because the system of dowry is still present though in a dormant
form which makes women a burden on their families and that they ultimately go to
their in-laws’ place. Due to these reasons, they are often snatched away of
their right to property.
While in the educated urban classes, women’s conditions have improved
tremendously but the patriarchal norms have their tentacles deeply rooted.
Although they are given an opportunity to rise but are usually suppressed
because of their household obligations. There is a need to correct the very
basic foundation as works related to the household chores are seen as feminine.
Raising up children and managing the family are all a woman’s work hence she has
to sacrifice her earning career and revert to the four walls of the house.
In a democratic society, equal right and opportunities are very essential. Women
in many fields have been successful as much as their male peers but it is time
to recognize their work and give them equal opportunities. Demarcating the jobs
according to any gender is not a solution but it is time to see both kins of
society (male and female) to work together towards achieving equality.
Women have a tougher role to play as they have to break the traditional chains
that bound them to a few areas and they have to take a soar high up in the sky
to blossom and claim their rights. One ‘fights’ for what has been snatched away
from them so this should ring a bell in the ears of society that women should be
regarded as equal claimants, both in life and society. There is a long journey
ahead which lies till women’s rights are fully respected and recognized that
they play a vital role in the progress of a nation.
The amendment in the Hindu Succession act has been a milestone as women are too
given an EQUAL share of the property irrespective of the time of her birth or
date of amendment. She will be an equal coparcener both in the property and
liability that will come along with it.
There is a need for constant effort to end inequality. The 1958 amendment in the
Hindu Secession act held women’s rights are equal to men. Laws like
Marumakkattayam and Aliyasantana are a few other progressive laws. Although
numerous such laws are present but still discrimination between sexes is a
serious question that haunts the Indian society.
Through the 174th report of the
Law Commission, efforts were made to finish the old age custom of keeping women
aloof from property inheritance. It stated The exclusion of daughters from
participating in coparcenary property ownership merely by reason of sex is
unjust. It demanded that there is a severe need to see women as equal parties
in social, economic and political sphere.
Proper implementation is required for the promulgation of the legislative
actions. There is also a need to modernise the concept of Hinduism so that women
feel empowered and stronger. This can be achieved by creating a general
awareness about their rights from the grass root level.
Hinduism can boast to
have the oldest code in the world but age bound codes of law should not dictate
the status of a woman in the name of religion, especially in the 21st century.
It should however redefine the property rights and upgrade the status of women
as property owners because the hurdle lies in achieving equality between
- Shruti Pandey, ‘Property Rights of women’ (women’s link world)
<Microsoft Word - Women's Property Rights in India final Shruti Pandey.doc
- Legal correspondent, ‘Daughters have equal birth right to inherit
property’ (The Hindu, 11 August 2020) https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/daughters-have-equal-coparcenary-rights-in-joint-hindu-family-property-supreme-court/article32325891.ece
- Kanu Sarda, ‘A daughter is a daughter throughout her life’ (The
Indian Express, 11 August 2020) <'A daughter is a daughter throughout her life':
SC rules in favour of women's equal property rights- The New Indian Express>
- Prabha Sridevan, For Gender Equality in Ancestral Property, the
Journey from 1956 Has Been a Long One, (The Wire, 14 August 2020)
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Property Rights for Women in India - Paycheck.in>
- Women’s situation in India’ (Sarthak India) accessed on 13
- P.Abishek & Gayathri.J, ‘A critical analysis of status of women in
India’ International journal of pure and applied mathematics, vol120 no.5 2018,
Debarati and Jaishankar, ‘Property Rights of Hindu Women; A feminist review of
succession laws of ancient, medieval, and modern India’ Journal of Law and
Religion, Vol. 24, No. 2 (2008-2009), pp. 663-687