Women’s rights are strongly advocated across the country with constant efforts from the judiciary and the government to secure them at every levels. But, when it comes to paternal property, on a broader level it is difficult for most women to exercise this right. It is common practice in Indian culture that post marriage, a woman loses her right in her paternal property.
Even 15 years after the Hindu Succession Act (2005) was amended, a large number of women do not know about their rights over paternal property.
But, for many different reasons, the financial condition of women becomes very bad. Such situations arise for women where they do not have enough capital or property to live their life. In such times, ancestral property can be useful for women.
Experts say that this problem exists on a large scale. A large number of women relinquish their rights over ancestral property after marriage.
However, in financial emergencies or unforeseen crisis, paternal property can come in handy for women.
Renu Maheshwari, co-founder and certified financial planner of Finscolarge feels that women are at a disadvantage. Women give up their right to the property of the father after marriage, while they have no clear rights to the property of the husband, says Maheshwari.
Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution talks about the special status of women. In article 15 (3), it has been said that the Centre and the state can introduce special rights for women because they need to be given protection.
Even though women are working these days, they have to bear the dual responsibilities of home and office, Maheshwari said. With limited income, their savings are limited and in most cases women have enough financially security, while home-makers are never paid for their work, she added.
According to Shashwat Anand, Supreme Court lawyer, property rights of women in India, are broadly decided according their religion. For instance, rights of Hindu women in property were first advocated in 1937 within Hindu Undivided Family (HUF). As per the law, women were given limited rights in their husband’s property after his death.
Rights of Hindu Women
This was followed by the Hindu Succession Act in 1956. According to this, daughters, widows, mothers etc. were given rights in the father’s property. However, post marriage, the woman had no right in the paternal property. Further, the law was amended in 2005. It is worth noting that it took nearly 50 years from 1956 to 2005 to amend this law. The 2005 amendment talked about giving rights to Hindu married women in their paternal property.
However, Anand believes that the law is still theoretically applicable at large and most women forsake this right due to social and other reasons.
Rights of Muslim women
According to Anand, the property rights of Muslim women are governed by the Sharia Act, 1937. Among Muslims, unmarried women get half of the rights of men and a divorced woman gets one-fourth of her husband’s property. If the woman has children, her right is reduced to 1/8, Anand added.
Rights of Christian and Parsi women
The rights relating to property of Christians and Parsi women are decided according to the Indian Succession Act, 1925. There is no discrimination against women, according to this law.
Lack of awareness
According to Anand, the main reason for women not being able to get their rights in the property of paternal or husband is lack of awareness. Another major problem is that women are reluctant to approach the court for their property rights. This issue should any religion-based discrimination and there should be similar laws for everyone.
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