Low awareness and fear of conflict prevent women from owning land, says study by UN Women and Landesa

Despite strong inheritance law, women fear abandonment and violence


For immediate release

New Delhi - Women constitute not just the face of the poverty in India but they also remain critically dependent on land without any property or land rights, say three new reports launched here today in the backdrop of International Rural Women’s Day on the 15th of October.

“In India close to 86% percent of all rural women depend on agriculture for survival but only 10% own land. Land is a crucial economic asset for women in poor rural communities. It is a key resource for agricultural production,” said Anne F. Stenhammer, Regional Programme Director, UN Women South Asia.

No land documents, a wide literacy gap and a patriarchal society are just some of the challenges women face when it comes to claiming the land in their own name. Detailing these and many more issues, Challenges and Barriers to Women’s Entitlement to Land in India shows that social and systemic barriers will have to be addressed for effective implementation of the women’s inheritance law. The scoping research was conducted with 504 women in 19 villages across 4 districts of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.

Key findings of the study

  • Low awareness of Hindu Succession Act that allows women to inherit property: Only 22% of families surveyed aware of the law
  • Family is a barrier: 87% of them claim that their husbands did not want them to own land
  • Cultural norms: In 57% of cases, culture and religion were important barriers
  • Decision-making directly linked to ownership of land: Women who had land in their name participated more in the decisions related to plot sale, rental, mortgage and bequest.
  • Education of women and girls: Daughters of women with land titles in their name more likely to receive middle school education by the age of 16 years.
  • Only 12% of women respondents say that they have or believe that they will inherit land from their parents.

Sharing the major findings of the study, Dr. Govind Kelkar, Senior Advisor, Landesa, said: “Women show an interest in owning land. However, there are several reasons why women do not want or will not own land. These include lack of knowledge and rights, lack of social and institutional support, and power dynamics within the family. We need to have transparent laws as well as increase women’s awareness of their rights.”

Besides the Landesa study, UN Women also launched two reports “Women, Land and Agriculture in Rural India” and “Women’s Rights to Forest Spaces and Resources” authored by Dr. N. C. Saxena, Member, National Advisory Council. “It is important to improve gender participation and sensitize men on gender issues because it is women’s hard work that goes unrecognized and unaccounted for in the economy,” said Dr. Saxena.

The reports recommend that policies that encourage women’s land and property rights need to take centre stage.

Media inquiries:

Sabrina Sidhu, Communications and Information Officer, UN Women South Asia, Email: sabrina.sidhu@unwomen.org, Tel: 9818717522 or 9560452556