An equal share for girls in India
India has had deeply entrenched patriarchal values, which exist even today. These patriarchal norms clearly dictate that the male child has the right to almost everything, while the girl child is bound in by discrimination, helplessness, and skewered moral values which will affect her whole life. These patriarchal norms are so deeply embedded within the psyche of not just men, but also women, that even with the change of laws and the creation of provisions for women, it is very hard to actually inculcate them within the actual practices of society. A case in point is the property inheritance rights of women in the country.
The recognition of women as having equal shares in the property of the man was unheard of, until the law was changed in 2005. According to the Indian Express, in September, 2005, it was declared that the girl child would have equal rights to the inheritance of property, as the male child would. This means that upon the death of the head of the family, the property is to be equally divided between the male child and the female child of the deceased. This was done after an amendment to the Hindu Succession Act, and the ruling by the Supreme Court, lead by Justice R.M Lodha and Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar. According to the amendment, which is under section 6 of the Act, the girl child would be entitled to equal property rights after the head of the family passes away.
While this amendment can be taken at face value, one must also evaluate it critically. This amendment was brought into practice, and was confirmed only in 2005 and not earlier. Before 2005, upon the death of the head of the family, the property would be given to the son instead of the daughter. The latter would have no claims, and during dire circumstances, she would be at the mercy of her brother for sustenance. Also, one wonders as to how much of this law is actually practiced.
While this law can be enforced in the more urban areas, due to more prevalent patriarchy as well as ignorance, the rural areas barely ever bring this law into force. After the passing away of the father, the daughter is usually not given the right to claim her share in her deceased father’s property. Her brother(s) get the farmland, and she must be under the mercy of her brother in order to sustain herself. Even in the case of married women, after the death of her husband, the land is usually taken away by his brothers, or by her son, if she has any. She must then be at the mercy of her in-laws to sustain herself and her children.
This would not have been such a pressing issue in this country had India not been a primarily agricultural country. Despite the growth of cities and towns, vast stretches of this country are rural areas, and while it is very hard for the educated, urban woman to gauge the prevalence of this practice throughout the country, it is very much in practice. Property rights for women in India may have changed, but until women are made aware of it, and until they find the power to stand up and demand their rightful share, there is a very wide rift between the law and its execution, with regards to women’s property inheritance rights in India.