Celebrating Women’s Day: Understanding Property Rights for Women

womens day

Women have been subject to bias in property matters. Woman’s day is an opportunity to ponder over such inequalities and initiate measures for empowering women about their property rights.

Today women are financially independent. Our legal system recognizes their rights in the property as independent owners. The Government has given many relaxations like lower stamp duty rates, to encourage women ownership.  

In India various factors govern the rights of a woman:

  • Marital status
  • Property is ancestral, inherited or self-acquired
  • Property is parental or belongs to her in-laws or husband
  • Personal laws applicable to a woman
  • Rights of woman as a daughter, wife or mother

Read More: Indian Women’s Right to Property

Property Rights of Women as daughter, mother, wife:

Hindu Law:

  • A daughter is a coparcener. She has equal rights in the ancestral property of her father, as her brother, even if she is married.
  • As a wife, a woman has equal right in the property of her husband as other legal heirs.
  • A daughter in law has no right in the property of her father in law till the time her husband is alive. After the husband’s death, she gets a right in the share which her husband is entitled to get.
  • A woman who gets the property by any mode: gift, Will or inheritance, she becomes the absolute owner and is free to deal with it.
  • In the case of intestate succession, a widow has equal right in the property of her husband as her children. A widowed mother also has an equal share in the property of her son as other legal heirs.
  • The wife from the second marriage has the same rights in the property of her husband as the first wife. The second marriage must be valid under the law. 
  • The children (daughter and son) of the second wife are treated at par with the children of the first wife to inherit from the self-acquired property of their father. They do not get right in the ancestral property. 
  • The right of women in agriculture land needs a separate mention. These rights depend upon customary practices and personal laws. After the amendment of 2005 in the Hindu Succession Act, women are at par with men in the inheritance of agriculture land. But some States do not follow the amendment, and the bias continues.

Read More: Property Rights of Women as per Hindu Law

Muslim Law:

Property rights under Muslim Law are based on personal laws and customs. If a Muslim woman inherits property, she becomes the absolute owner of her share. In inheritance, she gets half the share of what male heir gets. 

If a Muslim woman wants to make a Will of her property, she cannot give away more than one-third share of her property, and if her husband is the only heir, she can give two-third share by Will. 

Other faiths:

For faiths other than Muslims and Hindus, the property rights of woman are mostly fair in terms of gender divisions.

Read More: When can or can’t a daughter stake a claim in her fathers’ property

Protection of inheritance rights of women and varying succession laws

Protection-of-inheritance-rights-of-women-and-varying-succession-laws

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. 

Read More: Opening an NRO Account – steps, details, requirements

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. 

Read More: Succession Certificate and the procedure to acquire it

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.

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Women Rights in India: Constitutional Women Rights

Women Rights in India Constitutional (1)

The Constitution of India not only allows equality to women but also empowers the State to use measures of positive discrimination in favour of women for neutralizing the cumulative socio-economic, education and political disadvantages faced by them. Fundamental Rights, among others, ensure equality before the law and equal protection of the law; prohibits discrimination against any resident on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and ensure equality of opportunity to all citizens in concerns relating to employment. Articles 14, 15, 15(3), 16, 39(a), 39(b), 39(c) and 42 of the Constitution are of special importance in this regard.

The women rights in India and safeguards well-preserved in the constitution are listed here:

  • The state shall not discriminate against any native of India on the ground of sex [Article 15(1)].
  • The state is authorized to make any special provision for women. In other words, this provision permits the state to make affirmative discrimination in favour of females [Article 15(3)].
  • No citizen shall be segregated against or be unsuitable for any office or employment under the state on the base of sex [Article 16(2)].
  • Traffic in human beings and enforced labour are banned [Article 23(1)].
  • The state to secure for male and female equally the right to a sufficient means of livelihood [Article 39(a)].
  • The state to ensure equal pay for equal work for both Indian male and female [Article 39(d)].
  • The state is needed to ensure that the strength and health of women workers are not abused and that they are not obliged by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their strength [Article 39(e)].
  • The state shall make procurement for securing just and humane conditions of work and maternity welfare [Article 42].
  • It shall be the duty of every native of India to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women [Article 51-A(e)].
  • One-third of the entire number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat shall be reserved for females [Article 243-D(3)].
  • One-third of the entire number of offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level shall be reserved for females [Article 243-D(4)].
  • One-third of the whole number of seats to be filled by direct election in all Municipality shall be reserved for females [Article 243-T(3)].
  • The offices of Chairpersons in the Municipalities shall be reserved for females in such manner as the State Legislature may provide [Article 243-T(4)].

Though the position of women has developed in the last four decades, however still they are struggling to maintain their freedom and dignity. Presently Indian women are suffering from the toughest time physically and mentally, mainly due to unawareness and lack of information on legal and constitutional woman rights in India. The Constitution provides many protection women rights such as Protective discrimination in favour of women, Right of women against exploitation, Rights of women under directives, Right to freedom of women and political representations of women.

Don’t Worry Honey, Divorcees Get Money

DIVORCEES GET MONEY

Under the Indian law, alimony is the monetary compensation granted to the spouse who is unable to support himself/herself, by the other spouse, during or after the divorce proceedings. When this sum is given during the court proceedings, it is the maintenance amount, and the same term is used in the various statutes such as the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. After separation the alimony may be taken as a lump-sump or a fixed payment which maybe given monthly, quarterly etc. Civil law such as The Special Marriage Act 1954 and Section 125 Code of Criminal Procedure are the common laws for all, however, The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and the Indian Divorce Act are applicable to Christians; Shariat Law and Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 and the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Divorce) Act, 1986 apply to Muslims and for Parsis, there is a separate marriage and divorce act.

Maintenance is granted only if an application is filed before it, by a man or a woman, and further the discretion lies with it to investigate and decide whether alimony is to be awarded or not. There are various factors that affect the amount of alimony, such as:

  1. The income of the wife if she is earning, will cause a reduction or increase in the maintenance granted by the court.
  2. The living standard of the wife/husband if they are not earning.
  3. If the wife remarries, the husband need not pay any maintenance after that.
  4. If husband is disabled and cannot earn, wife is asked to pay alimony.
  5. The longer the marriage, or the greater number of children and emotional investment, the larger the sum is expected to be.
  6. A spouses’ actions during marriage, such as, adultery, harassment of the other spouse etc affect the amount as well.

Mentioned above are only a few dimensions that are looked into and apart from these, the court sets other tests for amount assumption.

This mandate of the court is subject to change, and so, the amount decided need not be fixed per se. For example, if the husband finds a source of income and the wife is still asked to pay alimony to him, it would be unfair for her. Furthermore, the court also takes into consideration a lawful marriage, and no mistress of unlawful second wife can claim alimony, although children from the second marriage can claim child support.

All maintenance paid is taxable amount and so spouses usually, while paying alimony, deduct this tax amount from the sum that is to be paid to the other spouse as per court order. Further, the amount usually never goes beyond 1/5th of the husband’s income, although in a landmark case in April 2017, the Apex Court ordered a Bengal resident to pay 25% of his salary as ‘just and proper’ maintenance, that will ensure that his wife could lead a dignified life after separating from her husband.

EQUAL WORK, EQUAL PAY

EQUAL WORK EQUAL PAY

Every human being, who does any work, expects and deserves a remuneration which should be in par with the work and it should be equal for all those who are doing the same job.

Fair enough, if there are two people doing the same job, they should get the same kind of reward for it. This is a principle of natural justice which is embedded in the Article 39 of the constitution as a Directive principle of state policy. It is sheer discrimination if equal wages aren’t given for equal work. The constitution in its fundamental structure abolishes discrimination and this disparity may be challenged for being against the principles of equality too.

The issue of unequal pay for same amount of work pops up commonly in the context of sexual discrimination, in relation to the gender pay gap. As far as women are concerned, they are considered to be naturally inferior and hence, incapable for getting equally rewarded. This issue has been in the flame for a long time now.

The women participation rate in India was around 30 per cent between 1901 and 1951 whereas it hasdecreased to 25 per cent now, in 2015. Majorly, Women’s participation is in light industries and the unorganized sector, where the wages are usually lower. It is estimated that about 94% of working women participate in the unorganized labour sector; this further contributes to the existing pay gap.

There are cultural barriers too.  Women have a constant responsibility of being a home-maker first and for that reason; it is partially believed that they cannot do as much justice to the job as a man can. They are, at times, not given the same kind of education and  exposure which also allows the society to judge their potential.

International problem

As far as unequal wages are considered, it isn’t a problem in India only. Many countries in Africa, Asia and South America are also facing the same issue. The developing world has yet not accepted the women power with much zeal. Hence, this is an international problem and needs to be tackled by all the nations in collaboration with each other.An initiative has been taken at international sphere for this, C100 Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951, which addressed the issue of equal pay between men and women for work of equal value. This convention requires all member states to direct their national laws and policies towards guaranteeing equal remuneration to all workers, regardless of gender.

Impact

India is a developing country and it is needs the participation of female in the economy at a very high rate but this discrimination at the wages not only effects the financial but the mental and psychological conditions too. The participation of women will not only increase the GDP, but also result in increased growth and profitability in the private sector.