Why Land Is Important for Women in India Essay Example
Why Land Is Important for Women in India Essay Example

Why Land Is Important for Women in India Essay Example

Available Only on StudyHippo
  • Pages: 17 (4593 words)
  • Published: September 9, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
View Entire Sample
Text preview

Farm laborers, who serve as the primary nutrient manufacturers, constitute the main group vulnerable to nutrient insecurity.

For the rural poor, having access to land provides the best opportunity for them to improve their livelihoods and build assets that can enhance their ability to withstand shocks. "My bracelets are broken, my days of shame are gone. I have a little boy, a calf, and a field. A calf to nourish, a boy to take care of, but the field, sister Baiji, this half-acre of land is what feeds me and gives me rest," says Malli, a widow from Rajasthan.

Land ownership is essential for reducing poverty and developing agriculture, as well as addressing gender inequality. It provides food, shelter, income, and social identity. Furthermore, land can be used to secure the financial stability of households, individuals, and communities through borrowing, leasing, or selling. Lastly, land als


o has cultural significance in shaping power dynamics within communities and families.

Many people find a sense of self-identity and social order through land ownership. In certain societies, inherited land also serves as a representation of connection to kinship and citizenship, class and history, as seen in India. Historically, land has been a foundation for political power and social status within communities. However, land ownership is often limited based on factors such as gender relations, social structure, and racial hierarchy. In impoverished countries, this societal structure makes it difficult for individuals, particularly women, to access land or obtain property rights.

Despite being the main caretakers responsible for meeting the food, water, and fuel needs of their families, adult females in the underdeveloped world face significant barriers to accessing critical assets such as

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay

land, property, and financial services. These assets are essential for improving their income and position within their families and communities. Unfortunately, adult females are often denied these resources, either being completely denied land rights or having weak rights on farming plots. In many countries, adult females are still legally unable to own or inherit land and must rely on their male relatives for usage rights. (President Kanayo Nwanze IFAD 2009, p. 1)

Adult females of Muslim, Hindu, and Sunni faiths in India encounter barriers that hinder their ability to inherit land. This presents a significant problem given that women make up over 50% of the world's population and contribute 60-80% of agricultural production in developing countries. Yet, they possess less than 5% of global land ownership. In sub-Saharan Africa, adult females are the heads of 31% of rural families, while in Latin America and the Caribbean, this figure stands at 17%. In Asia, adult females lead 14% of families (FAO 2009).

1). The participation of women in agriculture in India is significant, with more than 78% of all female workers and 86% of all rural female workers being heavily involved in food production and trade. In comparison, only 58% of male workers are engaged in agriculture (Bina Agarwal 2002). Additionally, approximately half of the land dedicated to agriculture in India is contributed by women, who make up 66% of the farming labor force (www.).

Groundreport.com Women husbandmans: A turning force without a turning voice. Stella Paul (15 September 2010). This is an important disproportion, and yet women struggle to gain any rights to set land and properties under their names (Bina Agarwal, 2002). Furthermore, women's working hours input

on farms appears to be twice as much as that of men.

For illustration, B Verma S and S K Jiloka conducted research in the Himalayas and found that a pair of bullocks plants 1064 hours, an adult male plants 1212 hours, and an adult female plants 3485 hours in a year on a one-hectare farm. This is more than twice as much as male workers (B Verma S K Jiloka 2006, p 33). In undeveloped states like Bihar in India, where only 1 percent of women own land titles or usage rights, this disparity is even more evident (www. groundreport. com Women farmers: A growing force without a growing voice Stella Paul 15 September 2010).

Over the past two decades, there has been an increase in women's share of agricultural employment, leading to a feminization of agriculture. However, as Jackson argued, this does not mean the same as feminization of farm management (Jackson C 2003 "gender analysis of land: beyond land rights for women? Journal of agricultural change 3 (4) 453-458).

Currently, less than 2% of land in India is owned by adult females. This low ownership can be attributed to various factors including arms conflicts, economic migration, and deaths related to HIV/AIDS. Moreover, women face limitations when it comes to accessing credit allowances as only 10% are available to them due to national laws and customs that restrict their ability to share land rights with their spouse or family (FAO 2009, p. 1). Additionally, women experience restricted use and lack access to modern technology such as improved seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides which could greatly enhance agricultural practices.

Adult women in a population group that can be targeted

by local governments and authorities for extension support services and plans. They are also rarely participants in any government-subsidized corporate land plans. In addition, they often lack the necessary cash resources to purchase farming essentials such as seeds and pesticides, as well as research and innovative technologies. Furthermore, female heads of households do not have access to financial aid offered by lending establishments, banks, or government institutions.

Male heads are targeted for subsidized projects by authorities, while women have limited access to decision-making processes in various contexts such as the family, village, and community. In India, resource allocation, including land, is influenced by factors such as birth order among children and marital status. Women often face domestic work responsibilities, limited mobility, and a lack of education, which often leads them to engage in low-paying or even unpaid agricultural employment.

In India, approximately 35 percent of households are headed by females, including not only widows or abandoned and divorced women, but also women in male-dominated households where a man works outside of agriculture (R C Mishra 2006, p 109-110). Additionally, India has a high population diversity and small farm sizes in the agriculture sector, with an average farm size ranging from 2 to 4 hectares. Despite government land redistribution efforts, land reform is still insufficient.

Reena Patel (2007, p. 105-110) reports that approximately 25% of the land consists of farms larger than 10 hectares, and these are not under women's control. In the past, women's rights to land were restricted based on their familial roles, leading to limited ownership or sharing with other family members or husbands. Asian countries face challenges in terms of female access to property and

land due to inheritance laws that favor males over females.

In India, when an adult female inherits property, the management rights automatically go to her husband or a male figure in the household. The female individual only has possession rights during her lifetime. However, upon her death, ownership of the property goes back to the male line, either her husband or son. For instance, even though a woman may reach legal adulthood at 21 years old, she still needs her husband's representation in all legal matters as per the law. Therefore, if a woman plans to purchase land or register it under her name, she must obtain consent from her husband, father, or spouse according to legal requirements.

Carmen Deere highlights the importance of understanding women's land rights and their impact on agriculture, family, and community. She identifies two key factors in this context. The first factor is "protectionism," which involves recognizing the connection between women's land rights and their well-being, as well as that of their children, community, and society. The second factor is "empowerment," acknowledging women's land rights as tools for increasing their bargaining power within families and communities in order to overcome subordination to men. Both of these factors contribute to achieving gender equality. These factors have a significant influence on women in developing countries like India where societal power dynamics still favor men.

Improving women's rights to land not only enhances their societal position but also increases their food security and improves nutrition for their families. However, it is important to acknowledge that in India, women's status and support still heavily rely on traditional roles as mothers and caretakers, which limits their employment opportunities

beyond agriculture. The prevalence of discrimination in the workforce, including pay disparities, working conditions, and lack of social protection, forces many women to rely heavily on agriculture (Carmen Diana Deere 2003, p 3).

Public Assistance for Women

In India, it is widely acknowledged that having access to land significantly reduces the risk of poverty for a family.

Contrary to the belief that men owning land ensures women's welfare, there are multiple reasons why this assumption is false. One key factor is gender inequalities, which result in men receiving more resources like education, healthcare, and food both within families and society. This discrepancy is especially evident in societies like India where a preference for sons heavily influences households and the entire nation. Women consistently lag behind in indicators such as weight and height measurements for age, morbidity rates, and sex ratios that disadvantage females. However, granting land directly to women proves beneficial not only for them but also for their children. Evidence from India illustrates that women in impoverished families allocate a significant portion of their income towards fulfilling their family's needs as well as ensuring the wellbeing and education of their children (K C Roy C A Tisdell 14 July 2007).

According to a study by K C Roy and C A Tisdell (14 July 2007, p. 3-10), it has been found that children in rural India are more likely to attend school and receive medical attention if their female parent possesses more assets and decision-making rights. For instance, in Karela, a region in south India, families led by female farmers who are in charge of home gardening and farming produce have children who receive better nutrition, education, and

healthcare when they fall ill (Kumar 1978).

Andrea Booher states that women who possess land have more influence in their families and communities, resulting in a fairer distribution of benefits, including from male incomes. By directly owning land instead of relying on usage rights given by male family members, the risks of poverty for women and children would decrease while their well-being would improve. Moreover, women without independent resources are highly susceptible to poverty and destitution if they are abandoned, divorced, or widowed. In specific areas of western and northwestern India, it is not uncommon for rural women, even those from affluent families before and after marriage, to be deprived of their rightful land shares once they become widows.

There are certain situations where adult females may work as agricultural laborers on farms owned by their own brothers or brothers-in-law. However, abandoned and divorced adult females face more difficulties compared to married mothers and wives. Widowed or divorced women often do not receive the expected financial support from their relatives, including sons and brothers. As a result, many of them have to live independently. According to K C Roy (K C Roy C A Tisdell 14 July 2007, p. 3-10), widows who depend on male relatives have a higher mortality risk compared to those who are heads of households and likely have some independent sources of income.

The entitlement to household attention for widows and the aged can depend greatly on whether they possess belongings, such as land. Land provides women with both direct and indirect benefits. Direct benefits include the ability to grow crops, trees, vegetables, or grass for livestock. Indirect benefits arise in various ways: owned

land can be used as collateral for credit or as a valuable asset during a crisis. Land (whether owned or controlled by women) also increases the likelihood of finding additional paid employment and serves as an important asset base for non-farm rural businesses. For instance, individuals with land rights have a higher chance of earning more income through self-employment than those who do not own any land (K C Roy C A Tisdell 14 July 2007, p.

3-10). It is generally important for adult females to have access to even a small income-generating opportunity, as it can greatly improve their well-being and that of their families, even if it is not sufficient to fully support the entire household.

Equality and Empowerment

Land rights equality plays a crucial role in empowering women economically. Women who lack decision-making power in agriculture and household matters are more susceptible to social, political, and economic instability, as is the case in India (Agarwal 1994: 39). The experience of women in Bihar (eastern India) serves as a good example.

In the late-1970s, both adult females and males from landless families in Bodhgaya jointly applied for ownership rights to the land they cultivated. This land was illegally owned by a Math, which was a combination of a temple and monastery. During this process, women insisted on separate and independent land rights from men, and they were granted these rights in two towns. However, this led to a decrease in social structure and power dynamics in these towns. In towns where only men received titles, women became more insecure as men were more likely to threaten their wives with eviction during domestic conflicts, using the excuse that

the land now belonged to them. On the other hand, women who received titles automatically felt empowered, as they described it: "We had tongues but could not speak; we had feet but could not walk."

"Now that we have the land, we have the strength to talk and walk" (K C Roy C A Tisdell 14 July 2007, p. 26). This feeling of empowerment is related to improved land rights and also enhances women's ability to position themselves in a better standing within the home, family, and community. Additionally, it encourages women to play a more active role on the political stage, participate in important democratic events such as local elections, or engage in women's movements.

Besides, it is important to keep in mind that many national and international agencies offer micro-credit programs, which are being promoted as a solution for reducing poverty, especially for rural women in poverty. However, poor women not only face difficulties in maintaining control over these loans, but relying solely on this form of support can prove challenging and time-consuming. In India, women's societal position makes them vulnerable to being trapped in debt repayment obligations, as it is more difficult for them to have control over production, profit, and dealings with male suppliers. India, like many developing countries, is mostly a male-dominated society where every aspect of public and private life is strongly influenced by men. Business also falls under male dominance and the traditional perception of women as mothers, wives, and home caregivers. Naturally, women struggle to establish themselves in business due to social, political, and cultural disadvantages.

Contrarily, land rights can provide women with the security they need: financial,

social, and most importantly, sustainable livelihood.


Another aspect related to independent land rights for women is efficiency in utilizing land and agricultural production. In addition to welfare benefits, gender-equal land rights could also improve productive efficiency. It is widely recognized that having security of tenure is critical to motivating farmers to make productivity-enhancing investments in their fields; however, this statement still faces resistance, especially from Indian large landholders. Land access, in the form of titles and secure rights for women, would help increase output by improving women's access to resources for financial assistance.

The importance of this is particularly evident in situations where women are the main farmers in families, as the men in the household economically migrate out of the agricultural sector or when widows (or wives) are cultivating separate plots that are still officially owned by the family. In Burkina Faso, for example, women achieved much higher yields per hectare on their own plots compared to their husbands' plots, due to their choice of cropping patterns (Udry et al. 1995). However, it should be noted that women's output for specific crops was still lower than men's.

The limited access to resources such as fertilisers and water resulted in lower agricultural productivity for women farmers, as these resources were mainly allocated to men's plots. A study suggested that if these resources were reallocated from men's plots to women's plots within the same households, productivity could increase by 10-20 percent. A literature review also found that equal access to resources and education for women farmers in Asian countries, including India, would significantly increase productivity (Quisumbing 1996). Therefore, giving women more control over land and agriculture could improve food

production efficiency. Additionally, secure tenure, especially with titles, can empower women to access and benefit from agencies, banks, and other institutions that provide inputs and services such as credit, training, and advice.

Despite the fact that public attention towards adult females's land rights has focused more on positive assistance statements, the efficiency of promoting adult females's land ownership is still lacking. This is unfortunate considering that giving women the right to use land benefits both women and their families. These positive effects are particularly important in regions where there are many female heads of households or where the feminization of agriculture is increasing rapidly due to more men pursuing non-farm businesses in cities and abroad. The case of women in Karnataka highlights another challenging aspect of women's struggle for land rights. Traditionally, the bride's family must raise money for dowries and wedding expenses. However, in the event of divorce or separation, a woman has no right to reclaim the assets she brought into the marriage. Additionally, she also cannot request a share of her husband's land and house.

This lack of secure rights to agricultural land is particularly harmful to women outside of traditional families, such as long-term partners or women in polygamous marriages (Kripa Ananthpur Renee Giovarelli 2002, p. 7). Women are more vulnerable to the risks of material and social deprivation, being outsiders in the natural family. Additionally, the government's micro-ownership of land program in Karnataka, India has a positive impact on the lives of local women, who mainly work as field laborers. Padma from the rural village of Theetha in Southern India used to earn only 8 rupees per day (about 18 cents) before

participating in the Indian government's micro-plot project.

Like many women in developing countries, Padama's career options were limited, resulting in her earning the lowest wage. However, she had the opportunity to participate in a government land distribution project, which allocated small plots of land to villagers in need. Padama's plot happened to be located near a local temple, so she chose to cultivate flowers for sale during celebrations and festivals.

Padma earns up to 200 rupees per day (approximately $4.50) through her flower-selling business. This income has allowed her to remove her children from working in the fields and provide them with an education. The education accessed by her daughters in particular will open up better job prospects for them in the future (Padma's Story 2009, p.

1). The engagement of a micro-plot plan has had a positive impact on Anaya's life and the lives of her children. In rural areas, many widows and abandoned women have uncertain futures due to a lack of skills and resources. Anjaya's future became more certain when she secured her land rights to a micro-plot in a rural village in Karnataka. The plot allowed her to build a house, cultivate vegetables and fruit trees for sustenance, and generate income. In India, most women rely on men for financial, physical, and social well-being.

Even in their small town, the social status and security of women rely heavily on their husbands' positions. If a woman's relationship with her husband ends, she is compelled to leave both her home and, in many cases, the entire village. Furthermore, it is not expected for her to return to her family home if her husband abandons or divorces her.

Additionally, unlike her brothers, she is unable to inherit the family land following the death of her father. Moreover, she cannot anticipate receiving a portion of land upon her marriage. As a result, she may be forced to leave her children behind, be left without shelter or status, and become impoverished.

Adult females often find themselves torn between the security of having a home and basic necessities and the uncertain life on the streets, which exposes them to domestic abuse and violence. Anjaya's situation changed when she was given land that provided a safe place for her and her family. She was able to grow vegetables and fruits to sell in the market, which generated income to educate her children and give them better opportunities for finding jobs. Her children now help take care of the land, allowing Anjaya to focus on her growing domestic fowl business (Anjaya's Story 2009, p.

The authors Panda and Agarwa suggest that women who have immovable assets such as land or a house are at lower risk of experiencing violence compared to women without such assets (Bina Agrwa 2003, p. 8). An analysis conducted in Kerala on the relationship between women's property ownership and domestic violence supports this claim. It revealed that the incidence of long-term physical violence against married women by their husbands was as high as 49 percent among women who did not own land or a house.

The incidence of domestic violence is significantly lower for women who own immovable property, such as land, houses, or businesses. In cases where women owned land, the incidence of domestic violence was 18%, compared to 7% for women who owned both land

and houses. This negative relationship between a woman's property ownership status and domestic violence remained even after controlling for factors such as the family's economic position, education level of the couple, employment status, social support from family and neighbors, community age, number of children, and more (Bina Agrawal 2003, p. 8).

According to research by Bina Agarwal, approximately 40% of married women in India have experienced various forms of physical abuse multiple times throughout their married lives. Additionally, around 50% of these physically abused women reported experiencing violence during pregnancy (Bina Agarwal 2003, p9). Conversely, the Kerala survey discovered that women who own property are less likely to experience domestic violence. The ownership of a house or land serves as a visible indicator of a woman's empowerment within her home. Another potential solution could involve promoting women's participation in corporate investment and agriculture.

This is an example of Shakti, who, through collaboration with other unfortunate women from the Indian village of Chitoor, secured her future on land. Shakti was one of the most impoverished individuals in the village and, like numerous women, worked as a landless agricultural laborer, earning only $1 per day. During the off-season, her earning opportunities were even more restricted. During that time, she took on the physically exhausting and hazardous job of crushing rocks.

Shakti and other women in the small town took advantage of the opportunity provided by the authorities to acquire land rights. RDI, in collaboration with the Andhra Pradesh government and the World Bank, developed a land acquisition project that operates similar to micro-lending programs. The project involved redistributing government grants to provide financing for the purchase of available land on

the market. To qualify for this project, applicants had to belong to the most disadvantaged groups, including women. Shakti and other landless women in her small town applied together for a loan to buy a plot.

With the assistance of local legal assistants, the women negotiated with sellers and divided the land packages among themselves. In India, land rights can make a significant difference for women, determining whether they live in poverty or have opportunities for a better life. However, like the situations faced by many women in developing countries, if their relationships with men deteriorate, they may lack shelter and safety. Securing land rights helped Shakti escape poverty and allowed her to gain a new status in the village and community, as well as at home. Additionally, she now has control over important decisions regarding the land and its use.

The main source of income for her is the land she owns, which allows her to provide for her children. In addition, owning land helps protect women from physical or sexual abuse within their families. This is especially important for girls, who are vulnerable and rely on others for their well-being, education, and marriage arrangements, often without their consent. These inequalities arise from unfair inheritance practices and preference for sons in many cultures.

When a woman lacks assets, she becomes more vulnerable in situations such as the breakdown of a marriage, the death of a husband, or the arrival of additional wives to the household. As a result, in cases of marriage breakdown or widowhood, women often find themselves without any financial support and with limited job opportunities. Access to land rights can provide women with opportunities

to utilize micro-credit from governmental institutions. This credit can be invested in land, properties, or used to generate income or savings to protect against financial problems caused by natural disasters, illness or death (FAO 2009, p. 1). While husbands and wives share responsibilities for decision-making relating to household duties and expenses such as food and clothing, women are automatically excluded in matters concerning agriculture, the buying and selling of properties or land, and important family affairs.

Many adult females are unable to learn about modern framing techniques due to illiteracy or inadequate education. They also have limited freedom to participate in public life because of cultural and religious taboos. Additionally, the traditional belief that men are the primary decision-makers in society undermines women's empowerment. To ensure women have the right to own land, it is important to empower them in their roles as wives, daughters, community members, and citizens of India. Furthermore, women need to learn to advocate for their rights and be more proactive. Land is not only important for families and political elites, but also for multinational corporations, amusement parks, the tourism industry, natural resources, and commercial agriculture, particularly in urban areas.

The involvement of political power and societal elites often correlates with the involvement of corporations that are specifically interested in purchasing desirable land. These corporations are willing to offer high sums of money, making it nearly impossible for people who are just above the poverty line to afford such land. Consequently, in rural areas, the distribution of land is associated with vast stretches of barren land, which require significant human and financial resources to transform into productive assets. This conversion process may take

years, putting immense pressure on both men and women to mortgage or take loans against their property instead of utilizing it for sustainable means. Additionally, the government's allocation of land serves different purposes in urban and rural regions.

In urban areas, political and societal leaders tend to support industrialization of the land, while affluent landlords belonging to higher castes prefer to maintain control over agricultural business. Additionally, when it comes to gendered land distribution, it has implications for rights over other natural resources such as water and forests. For instance, water rights are usually associated with landowners, whether they hold titles or are in temporary positions. On the other hand, common resources like forests or agricultural land are typically managed by local village authorities known as panchayats, who are more inclined towards the idea of equal access for all community members, including women who often have the primary responsibility of fetching water, collecting fuelwood, and gathering fruits. Interestingly, for landless women, this is the only way to access these resources.

Get an explanation on any task
Get unstuck with the help of our AI assistant in seconds