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Women's right to land & housing

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Land Rights of Women …

Land Rights of Women
Dr. Vibhuti Patel, Director, PGSR
Professor and Head, Post Graduate Department of Economics
SNDT Women’s University, 1 Nathibai Thakersey Road, Churchgate, Mumbai-400020 Mobile-9321040048 Telephone-26770227 ® and 22052970
E mail: vibhuti.np@gmail.com


Women constitute of ½ of world’s population and do 2/3 of world’s work.
In return,
Women get 1/10th of world’s income and own 1/100th of world’s wealth.
-The United Nations

Women’s Right to Land has been major concern of the women’s movement in India for over three decades. Globally, women’s land rights are becoming an area of increasing urgency. In most societies, women have historically managed the unpaid care economy and fulfilled the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, family care, collection of fuel, fodder, water, kitchen gardening, poultry and animal husbandry and provided food and nutritional security. As women’s contribution to the economy and society at large remains unrecognised, largely underpaid and mostly unpaid, the need for women to be able to secure land and property has become even more critical.
Similar to the cross-cutting nature of women’s human rights issues, women’s land rights intersect with other problems such as discriminatory inheritance patterns, disinheritance thro’ wills, agriculture and development issues, use of forest-based resources, gender-based violence, the appropriation and privatization of communal and indigenous lands, as well as gendered control over economic resources and the right to work. The interdependence of women’s human rights highlights the importance of women being able to claim their rights to land, in order to lessen the threat of discrimination, different forms of violence, denial of political participation, and other violations of their economic rights.

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  • 1. Women’s Right to Land and Housing Dr. Vibhuti Patel, Director, PGSR Professor & Head, Post Graduate Department of Economics, SNDT Women’s University, Churchgate, Mumbai-400020. E-mail- vibhuti@mtnl.net.in , vibhuti.np@gmail.com Phone-91-022-26770227®, 22052970 (O) Mobile-9321040048 08/13/11
  • 2. Macro Reality
    • Women constitute of ½ of world’s population,
    • do 2/3 of world’s work.
    • In return,
    • Women get 1/10th
    • of world’s income and
    • Own 1/100th of
    • world’s wealth.
    • The United Nations
  • 3. Women’s contribution to the economy
    • Women have historically managed the unpaid care economy and fulfilled the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, family care, collection of fuel, fodder, water, kitchen gardening, poultry and animal husbandry and provided nutritional security.
    • As women’s contribution to the economy and society at large remains unrecognised, largely underpaid and mostly unpaid, the need for women to be able to secure land and property has become even more critical.
  • 4. Housewife by Amrita Pritam
    • Housewife
    • The housewife (2)
    • If the woman’s husband is asked
    • What does his wife do
    • The answer is
    • “ My wife does not work.”
    • Then
    • Who bears this world in her womb?
    • Who gives birth to the farmers, the workers?
    • Who cooks, washes, cleans and fills water?
    • Looks after the child and the sick?
    • Whose labour gives men leisure for liquor, tobacco and card session?
    • Whose labour gives men their strength to go to work?
    • Who labours without being noticed?
    • Mutely working, without being paid,
    • Without being appreciated ever------
  • 5. Institutional Constraints
    • discriminatory inheritance patterns,
    • agriculture and development issues, male- centred land reforms
    • use of forest-based resources,
    • gender-based violence,
    • the appropriation and privatization of communal and indigenous lands,
    • as well as gendered control over economic resources and the right to work.
  • 6. Why the stress on Women’s Rights to Land and Housing ?
    • to lessen the threat of discrimination,
    • different forms of violence- Domestic, community-based and societal
    • denial of political participation,
    • and other violations of their economic rights such as enterprise development, self employment
  • 7. International Documents
    • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights , 1948 (Articles 17 and 25);
    • The housing rights of Refugees, 1951
    • The Housing Rights of Indigenous People (Not yet adopted)
    • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights , 1966 (Article 17);
    • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights , 1966 (Article 11);
    • UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979 (CEDAW Articles 13-16).
  • 8. Constitutional Provisions in India
    • Article 14-“equality before the law” and “equal protection of laws within the territory of India”.
    • Article 15 (1), 15(2) and 15 (3) prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex & affirmative action policies for women and children.
    • A.P. state government was the first to declare land and property rights for women during mid-nineties.
    • Amendments in the Hindu Code Bill after the public interest litigation filed demanding coparsonary rights for Hindu daughters in the ancestral property .
  • 9. Women’s Movement for Land Rights
    • 1982- Bodh Gaya struggle under leadership of Chatra Yuva Sangharsh Vahini
    • 1986-Public interest litigations filed by Bhuribai and Dhagibai in Dhule
    • 1990-Shetkar Sangathana’s campaign for joint land-titles in the names of men & women members of family.
    • 2002 Janu , a tribal woman leader of Vaynad district of Kerala
    • 2006-MASUM managed to achieve joint property registration in Purandhar Taluka.
  • 10. Women’s Right to Housing (WRH)
    • WRH is linked with women’s rights in property, land and inheritance. As primary user of housing, women’s stakes and requirements are the highest in housing.
    • For women, beyond shelter, housing is a place of employment, a place for social interaction, a place for child-care and a refuge from social instability & sexual violence.
    08/13/11
  • 11. Special Needs of Female Headed Households (FFH)
    • In the peaceful areas, 1/10th of the households are headed by divorced, deserted, single women. In the conflict prone areas 1/3 rd of the households are FFH.
    • FHH are also the poorest of the poor. Even if they have money, they face hurdles while looking out for a rented place or a house on an ownership basis.
    08/13/11
  • 12. Contribution of the Women’s Rights Movement
    • Housing Rights have been major concern of the women’s Movement in India for over two decades. When women’s groups started providing support to women in distress, its was relatively easier to find jobs and school-admission for children. The most difficult task was to get an accommodation for women victims of violence, desertion, rejection, fraud and cheating by relatives .
    08/13/11
  • 13. Women’s Right to stay in Parental and matrimonial Homes
    • In the last 20 years, many women have filed petitions in the High Courts and the Supreme Court of India, demanding wife’s right to live in the matrimonial home and daughter’s right to stay in the ancestral home.
    • Lata Mittal challenged Mitakshara laws applicable to the Hindus that granted co-parsonary rights to only sons who is treated as Karta of family’s property.
    • Protection of Domestic Violence Act, 2005 has ensured right to stay in matrimonial and parental home to women.
    08/13/11
  • 14. Housing and Women’s Identity
    • Women’s identity is entwined with a house but housing’s identity as a capital investment and the largest outlay in the household budget lies with male head of the household.
    • Whether women are or aren’t property owners, their place or sphere is considered to be within the house- cult of domesticity.
    • Low status of women is perpetuated by the devaluation of domestic work.
    08/13/11
  • 15. Gender Bias and Housing Problems
    • The gendered construct of social & economic relations within and outside the household and deeply entrenched patriarchy discriminate against women in virtually every aspect of housing, be it policy development, entitlement in government projects, control over household resources, rights of inheritance and ownership and even the construction of housing.
    08/13/11
  • 16. Emerging Issues
    • Need to focus on housing in terms of ‘personal meanings’ as well as affordability, women’s role and the housing industry.
    • Privileged position of property owners who tend to be men in the housing delivery system & general subordination of women.
    • Women’s lack of representation in political bodies & societal restrictions reinforcing their status as second class citizens.
    08/13/11
  • 17. Gender Aware Approach
    • Gender Neutral Approach in housing needs to be replaced by Gender Aware Approach that takes women’s specific needs, concerns and rights with respect to housing into consideration.
    • Women’s lack of security of tenure is the overarching concern of all those who believe that women’s rights are human rights .
    08/13/11
  • 18. Stake Groups in Housing industry
    • Land surveyors, builders, developers, designers, financiers, mortgage bankers, lawyers, credit unions, government officers, material suppliers, real estate brokers, appraisers, contractors, interior decorators, gardeners, landscape architects, consumers .
    • In the language of economics, the SS side comprises of production, construction, management, maintenance, rehabilitation .
    08/13/11
  • 19. Gender Audit of the Syllabus
    • In the schools of Architecture or engineering, in their planning and design education, there is public-Private split.
    • The syllabus should emphasize that as a physical structure, the house is a site for housework, home-making, child rearing and wage-labour for majority of women all over the world.
    • A house layout influences and affects gender roles among household members and therefore mirrors change in society’s concept of the family.
    • Hence the need for gender sensitive designing based on the ethos of shared housework by men and women in the household.
    08/13/11
  • 20. International Human Rights Law on Security of Tenure
    • A person is said to have a secure tenure if he/she is protected from being removed arbitrarily and involuntarily from their homes and lands.
    • Tenure is secure if it is protected by legislation rather than protected merely thro’ customs and traditions.
    08/13/11
  • 21. The UN on Forced Eviction
    • "Women...and other vulnerable individuals and groups suffer disproportionately from the practice of forced eviction. Women in all groups are especially vulnerable given the extent of statutory and other forms of discrimination which often apply in relation to property rights (including home ownership) or rights of access to property or accommodation, and their particular vulnerability to acts of violence and sexual abuse when they are rendered homeless." (UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Sixteenth Session, 1997)
  • 22. Threat to Women’s Security of Tenure (WST)
    • Circumstances and conditions that threaten WST
    • Gender biased laws preventing women from owning, inheriting, purchasing, leasing, renting, bequeathing housing, land and property.
    • Judicial Interpretation of the Law - No explicit forbidding of WRH in gender neutral laws, still they create obstacles for WRH.
    • Land and Housing Systems as they grant titles to private property to “Heads of Households” who are often deemed to be men.
    • Customary laws, Traditions, Attitudes
    • Domestic Violence
    08/13/11
  • 23. Financial and Material Barriers
    • Gender-biased policies in financing for housing, availability of services, material and infrastructure, affordability, habitability, accessibility, location and cultural adequacy to handle political economy of housing.
    • Difficulties in securing loans for purchase of good quality housing
    • problems of rental housing.
    • Age of Women and Housing- Plight of women senior citizens.
    08/13/11
  • 24. Indian NGOs and WRH
    • Two decades of Debate- Two positions
    • 1. WRH independent of male ownership & Control because women’s land-use priorities are different from that of men.
    • 2. Joint Titles- majority of poor masses hardly manage to have one house. Hence, separate house for women is a non-issue.
    • The Felt Need:
    • Need for a training manual to deal with the modalities of attaining WRH
    08/13/11
  • 25. Experiences of SEWA & SPARC
    • SEWA: inclusion of women’s name in the title to property before granting loans for housing. As monetary benefits accrue to the family, the husband/father and family members accept the proposal of joint titles to land/house. Women Contractors aiming to be builders
    • SPARC : Supports Mahila Milan (MM), network of pavement dwellers, assists MM to get recognition and support from the settlements, skills & training, makes resources available for the low cost housing.
    08/13/11
  • 26. State and Civil Society Initiatives
    • Progressive states have empowered women by granting housing rights. e.g.
    • Building societies in Sweden & England,
    • Unions in Germany, Self help Groups & Cooperative Enterprises in Canada, Central & Latin America, Africa and Asia.
    • The enlightened nation states accept societal responsibility for women’s housing and the rest live it to individual women to fend for themselves.
    08/13/11
  • 27. Witch-hunting of Women
    • “ Bhootali ” (Maharashtra), Dayeen (Bihar)- Widowed/divorcee Dalit/ tribal women.
    • In 2001, In the Koombha Mela in Allahabad, 60000 women were deserted by their family members.
    • Sarpanch, Talati &Tahasildars taking advantage of illiterate women.
    • In Algeria and West African countries FHHs were burnt. International Committee of Women Living Under Muslim Laws.
    08/13/11
  • 28. Action Agenda
    • Women’s land and housing needs must be understood from the point of view of women’s rights to dignified life.
    • Women should not face any discrimination in exercising their right to land and housing due to their caste, race, age, religion and ethnicity.
    • State and civil society initiatives must facilitate the process of women’s empowerment through exercising WHRs. The local self government bodies should reserve 10% of all houses/ flats/ industrial units/ shops in the market places for women.
    08/13/11
  • 29.
    • Rural and tribal women must get their land and housing rights.
    • Schools of Architecture, Engineering Colleges and Institutions for Interior Designing should organize capacity building workshops and training programmes for women.
    • Gender sensitization of the decision-makers in the housing industry (both public and private sector) and the elected representatives of the mainstream political bodies should be given top priority.
    • For formulation of gender-sensitive policies, experts on the subject should be inducted in the apex bodies of urban, rural and tribal housing projects.
  • 30. Thank You
    • Women’s
    • Right to Land & Housing
    • is a basic Human Right .
    08/13/11

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