In our traditional patriarchal society, women have always had fewer rights. Women have been subjected to discrimination, especially in property matters. Inheritance rights of women to the property of her parents or husband has never been taken seriously. Property has always remained the domain of the men. Somehow, women also never bothered to raise their voice against the said bias.
Now things are changing. Women have progressed in every sphere of life. They are educated and employed. Women of the present times are proud owners of self-acquired properties and handle their financial matters by themselves. They have earned recognition for themselves being self-reliant and have compelled the society to ponder over their inheritance rights.
Succession laws vary:
The social fabric and religion influence the inheritance rights of women. The question of inheritance/succession arises-
- In the case of ancestral property
- In case of a person having self-acquired property dying intestate
In some communities, the rights have been strengthened by codifying inheritance/succession laws.
Whether a woman can be a successor to the property depends upon the personal and customary laws.
- The relevant succession law for Hindus (Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhists) is found in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. A daughter inherits equally as a son in her father’s property, whether self-acquired or ancestral. A wife gets equal share as her children in the property of her husband if he dies intestate. A Hindu woman is the absolute owner of her property which she inherits or receives as a gift.
- Indian Succession Act, 1925 governs the inheritance and succession laws applicable to Parsis, Christians and Jews. A Christian daughter and son have equal rights in the property of their father. A Christian wife gets one-third of the property of her husband depending upon the presence of lineal descendants.
- Muslim woman gets a share as per the personal laws. Generally, she gets one-fourth of her husband’s property if no children are there but one eighth if children are there. The daughter receives half the share of her brother in father’s property.
Protection of women’s inheritance rights:
There is no substitute for education and awareness about one’s rights. It is the key to safeguard the rights of women. Some other factors that can assist in the protection of inheritance rights are:
- Government policies and laws favouring women help to neutralize the bias. E.g. payment of less stamp duty and fewer taxes, in case of registration of property in the name of a female. It works as an incentive and lots of people prefer to buy the property in the name of the women.
- The dependency of inheritance on personal laws leads to a lot of confusion and misinterpretation of laws. A codified and uniform inheritance law will benefit more.
- There is a need to renounce the practice of sacrificing one’s share in favour of male heirs. Many women themselves give up their share in the ancestral or self-acquired properties in favour of male heirs.
- A new concept of setting up of a spousal trust is coming up these days. Women are signing prenuptial agreements to safeguard their pre-marriage wealth. The trust also protects the women against matrimonial disputes.
Creating an environment encouraging women to be self-reliant will go a long way to protect a woman’s rights.